‘But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.’
Alan Rusbridger: Guardian Newspaper
It is true that new media has redefined the concept of communication. Society has become increasingly immersed in a virtual world, therefore pushing the social and cultural boundaries and causing a new type of academic discourse. Having the option to not go through ‘traditional’ intermediaries in order to interact socially and retrieve news, has become the daily media habits of millions.
Journalism, as a broad concept of publishing, is an excellent example of how one can demonstrate and critically analyse how mass communication has caused a major change in the way journalists seek and produce their content. The speed in which stories, news and current affairs are published around the world is remarkable and to be able to understand events as they occur has become an essential factor of journalism. Twenty-four hour news days redefined what the public expects from various news platforms, establishing a new benchmark for the latest information occurring anywhere in the world.
New media platforms have caused a mass online social conversation, where individuals can interact and discuss virtually anything. Such platforms also help ‘spread’ and publish information that once, would have only been delivered through a news program and by a ‘trained’ professional. However, what is important to recognise is that the media landscape has shifted and mass communication has altered the media habits of millions. Therefore collaboration is imperative in order for the survival of journalism as a traditional media profession.
So what does this mean for journalism as a concept of publishing as a fourth estate? Has speed and the pressure to publish news quickly impacted on the traditional institution of journalism? Has this change in media landscape ‘forced’ individuals to modify the traditional media objective? Is society still in need of the ‘middle man’ or have the consumers become the producers of their own content? Such questions will aim find the connections and comparisons between the rise of mass communication and journalism as a traditional profession.
The changing media landscape and the emergence of new media platforms have created a shift in the profession of journalism and the traditional objectives.
“Open, networked digital media tools challenge the individualistic ideology of traditional journalism, while service like twitter question a news culture based in individual expert system over knowledge-sharing. (Hermida: 2012, pp1).
The constant pressure to produce quality news stories has become an industry requirement; however the speed in which content is delivered and published is unbelievable. Therefore, contemporary society now needs to understand where the information is coming from in order to not only trust the information published but also the journalist. Richard Sambrook, Director of the BBC Global News Division:
“The objective was once designed to deliver journalism that people can trust. But in the new media age transparency is what delivers trust. He stressed that news today still has to be accurate and fair, but it is as important for the readers, listeners and viewers to see how the news is produced, where the information comes from, and how it works. The emergence of news is as important, as the delivering of the news itself.” (The Guardian: 2009)
The online Guardian article, How Social Networking is Changing Journalism, covers the Global News Conference held in 2009. The international meeting aimed to discuss and understand the long term ramifications of the internet on news journalism. It appears that Richard Sambrook and his associates have attempted to recognise the changing media landscape and try and re define their role in publishing quality news for audiences. However, he continues to remain optimistic when re defining the role of journalism, Sambrook states:
“You get a lot of things, when you open up Twitter in the morning, but not journalism. Journalism needs discipline, analysis, explanation and context, he pointed out, and therefore for him it is still a profession. The value that gets added with journalism is judgment, analysis and explanation – and that makes the difference. So journalism will stay.” (The Guardian: 2009)
To an extent, this statement is very true because it does take an incredible amount of analyses and in-depth explanation in order to make audiences understand news stories. However, Sambrook believes it is all about the notion of intellectual collaboration, “if you believe you are in competition with the internet, find your way out. Collaboration, openness and link culture are rules, you can’t deny at the moment.” (The Guardian: 2009)
To understand that journalism still has a major role in a rapidly changing, contemporary media landscape proves that there is still a certain level of optimism in the industry. However, is the collaboration of journalism and social media as easy as it sounds?
Social media has become the definition of mass communication, creating an interactive platform where people can share opinions and information. Therefore, the term, ‘citizen journalist’ has been created in order to explain how the public gains their news from each other rather than a credible media site. Huffington Post blogger and CEO of Audiencebloom, Jayson DeMers finds that through social networking sites and small media outlets users:
“Are able to document the news as it happens in real time and reach a huge number of people…People reading the news posts of others are able to engage with the original poster by contributing their views on the topic while sharing it with others. Suddenly, online papers are no longer the favored place to get the news and people are instead (intentionally or unintentionally) turning to ‘citizen journalists’ for their news.” (DeMers: 2013).
The notion that internationally publics are distributing and sharing information through social networking sites at such a rapid speed is intriguing. The need for breaking news drives users to publish information with little investigation or critical judgement. Therefore, as Richard Sambrook previously noted, where is the judgement, analysis and explanation? When news is released via social media, there is little attempt to filter the information, yet it has become the platform where people access their latest news accounts.
However, because the consumers have become the producers of their own content, journalism as a profession have had to identify that changes have occurred and the collaboration with new concepts of publishing, is vital. Huffington Post Blogger, Jayson DeMers:
“The prevalence of mobile devices that can record pictures, video and have constant internet connections, combined with the growing popularity of social networking sites has actually made it possible for people to produce and share news themselves.” (DeMers: 2013).
It is evident that media and publishing collaborations are occurring and journalists are turning towards social media in order to ‘compete’ with the online conversation. The realisation that ‘everyone’ in the western world is online has become apparent to both the Australian and International media industries. However, in a blog post on Storyful.blog, journalist Mark Little analyses how social media might not be the legitimate threat to journalism:
“The frenzied debate about Boston and social media seems to have missed the central point. The greatest threat to ‘True Journalism’ is not social media but an outmoded concept of breaking news.” (Little: 2013)
Each individual has now become an “eye witness” (Little: 2013) and perhaps the need for people to share and post the ‘breaking news’ is what is threatening the traditional institution of journalism.
However, as many professionals in the media and journalism industry remain optimistic about their place in the future, the rate in which news accessibility is changing is rather bleak. Based on the emergence of new concepts such as social media producers and ‘citizen journalists’, once cannot help but feel like the art of journalism cannot remain socially relevant:
“As a former foreign correspondent, I’ve seen war and disaster close up. I know how difficult it is to communicate shocking imagery to a distant audience without diminishing the reality you are trying to describe. Yet, from the vantage point of the social web, there was no apparent need for a third person to mediate. In the blatant first-person world of YouTube and Twitter, we all get to decide the meaning.” (Little: 2013).
The academic concept of disintermediation can be defined as the “removal of the middleman” (Krichel: 2001) and to an extent, society has almost witnessed the loss of the traditional media ‘middleman’. Journalists aim to provide audiences with sound, accurate accounts of national and international events, however because their role in the media has significantly changed, perhaps journalists can help audiences make sense of the new media intermediaries. Writer Terry Hart analyses Guy Pessach opinions on the consequences of disintermediation on traditional intermediaries:
“New intermediaries, like YouTube and Facebook, are not as different from traditional media as disintermediation proponents might think and may, in fact, be worse in many ways. As Pessach notes, “the creative destruction of traditional corporate media and its replacement by mega networked intermediaries may generate realms that are more concentrated, homogeneous and exploitive of creators.” As new intermediaries gain power over audiences, the preservation of “traditional” media may have an increasingly important role mitigating that dominance.” (Hart: 2013)
Perhaps traditional media can help justify the social media dominance that western society is currently facing. As a profession, they have aimed to be the middleman, acting as a channel between information and various publics. In a world that is increasingly interacting with the online sphere, journalists need to become a part of the online conversation in order to help people make sense of what they read and share. Therefore the collaboration of new media and traditional intermediaries can occur effectively.
As bleak as the picture may look, traditional media and journalism still have social and cultural relevance in western society. However, what is important to recognise is that the media landscape has changed drastically. Mass communication has changed the media habits of millions. Therefore collaboration with other forms of media publishing is vital and journalism may have the opportunity to become the middle man in a new media landscape.
This shift in traditional media has caused a change in social discourse, causing people to redefine their daily media habits. Boundaries will continue to be pushed, as the social discourse surrounding the next step of mass communication and traditional media will be eagerly anticipated.
Anonymous, 2009. How Social Networking is Changing Journalism. The Guardian Online Newspaper. Retrieved on the 10th of June, 2013, accessed from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/pda/2009/sep/18/oxford-social-media-convention-2009-journalism-blogs
DeMers, J. 2013. How Social Media is Supporting a Fundamental Shift in Journalism. Huffington Post Online 8th of May, 2013. Retrieved on the 10th of June, 2013, accessed from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jayson-demers/how-social-media-is-suppo_b_3239076.html
Hart, T. 2013. The Downside of Disintermediation. From website Copyhype, 10th of June, 2013. Retrieved on the 12th of June, 2013, accessed from http://www.copyhype.com/2013/06/the-downside-of-disintermediation/
Hermida, A. 2012. Tweets and Truth: Journalism as a Discipline of Collaborative Verification. University of British Columbia, Vancouver. 13th of March 2012, pp 1-10.
Krichel, T. 2001. Disintermediation of Academic Publishing Through the Internet: An Intermediate Report from the Frontline. Long Island University Brookvale, New York. Pp 194-205.
Little, M. 2013 When Everyone is an Eye Witness, What is a Journalist? Storyful.blog. Online blog 21st of April, 2013. Retrieved on the 10th of June, 2013, accessed from http://blog.storyful.com/2013/04/21/when-everyone-is-an-eye-witness-what-is-a-journalist/