*This post is an assignment for my “Journalism in a free society” course to describe what my definition of journalism is today.
“This is the most exciting time ever to be a journalist — if you are not in search of the past.” –Hodding Carter III
As a fourth year journalism student, I’m fond of the phrase “going digital.” In the last 10 years, news companies and independent publications have made the great leap to online platforms, in some cases canceling out their print editions entirely (i.e. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer) to focus on a new frontier. A frontier that often favors short video clips, gasp-worthy headlines and loads—and loads—of quick, accessible content.
When the non-partisan American press was birthed at the turn of the 20th century, journalists fought for a voice that would educate and inform the public in an objective, timely and democratic manner. Each time society has unveiled a new news medium (the telegraph in the mid 1800s, radio in the 1920s, TV in the 1950s) it became a distraction, throwing consumers off course, challenging what they knew to be true of communication technology. And yet, with the millennial debut of mobile content, demand for news has never been higher. It’s hard to argue that Americans aren’t informed. And isn’t this the main goal of journalism, anyway—to inform the public? Digital journalism is only the latest leg of the news media monster.
Today, in 2014, journalism is forcefully evolving at a rate unparalleled in American history.
Traditionally, journalism referred to the news and information provided to the public through the objective lens of newspapers and television and radio broadcasters. Today’s journalism, in contrast, incorporates print, broadcast and digital platforms, marrying the three to give consumers all they need to know—and more. This unconventional union is something we’re calling a “media innovation community.”
No longer are the times when breaking of news relies on classically trained journalists and reporters. With universal access to the Internet, bloggers, writers, Tweeters, artists, businessmen, eyewitnesses and even your neighbor Jane Doe and her imaginative 12-year-old son all have the ability to publish information and “news” online, at any time.
Sure, it’s an unfortunate instance when journalists are pushed to prove their credibility and responsibility to the world. But, as journalists, it’s our duty to distinguish for consumers the difference between websites like Buzzfeed and FiveThirtyEight, Elite Daily and The Washington Post. While these sites all cater to on-the-move, digital readers, one publishes snack-able, non-essential news, and the other produces meaningful, newsworthy journalism.
Still, with today’s journalism, there seems to be a loss of news value. Elliot King, author of Key Readings in Journalism, said the established news media no longer holds the sole role of acting as gatekeepers for the news. Which, in turn, creates the massive, undefinably deep expanse of news and information that is the Internet. According to The Press, Thomas Paine once said that journalism helps us “‘see with other eyes, hear with other ears, and think with other thoughts than those we formerly used.'” If Paine’s definition of journalism is remembered, then traditional journalism will live on—whether in print or online.
So, what is journalism in 2014? It’s a mash-up of online, broadcast and print news and information that, just like yesterday’s journalism, aims to serve for the public good, but unlike yesterday’s journalism, blurs the line more than ever between the value of quality journalism and the instant gratification of mobile content. Journalism today is malleable. Journalists and consumers alike are perpetuating their very own definition of journalism for today and for the future.