Man Bites Dog

Is professional journalism facing extinction?

Posted on 1st February 2013 by Man Bites Dog

Multi channel news consumption

The way in which we obtain and consume our news is changing. We no longer depend purely on big media outlets for information, and often turn instead to more niche, digital channels for our daily news fix.

The internet has redefined our concept of news, who has ownership of it, the details that matter and the speed at which stories can and should be disseminated. But have these changes damaged our faith in traditional journalism?

Trust meltdown

Recent instances of unbalanced reporting, breaches of privacy, axed investigations and dishonest programme-making have all painted a pretty unsympathetic picture of the press and the professional journalist. Of course, journalists have a duty to tell an interesting story, but critically, in a post-Leveson age, they also have the responsibility to deliver unbiased facts. Journalists must now attempt to do this while contending with an erosion of public trust.

Can journalists be relied on to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? It seems that many in the UK feel they can’t. Whilst doctors and teachers were deemed to be amongst the most trustworthy members of society in a recent poll, tabloid journalists scored particularly low on the trust continuum, with their broadcasting counterparts not fairing much better.

Clearly, public faith in the media is low, but is it beyond resuscitation?

A changing landscape

With journalism under such intense scrutiny and the continuing evolution of the way we consume news, the industry finds itself facing something of an identity crisis. Today’s internet consumer now expects quality news, reviews and information to be instantly accessible and usually free.

The move towards consumption of news via smart-devices presents promising opportunities for journalists, including a strengthening of their presence across platforms, and providing the chance to offer richer, multimedia content.

Indeed, the top 10 iPad apps are news related – The Guardian’s iPad app was downloaded over 500,000 times in the three months after launch, despite a subscription fee of £9.99. Looking to the future it is clear that, despite grumbling, people actually don’t mind paying for their content, especially from trusted providers. It is also interesting to note that The Guardian remained relatively untouched by recent scandals. The reputation or brand of a news organisation is one of the most important factors in determining where consumers go for news.

New order

Whilst ‘citizen journalists’ may get to the breaking news stories quicker than traditional media, people still want to know that the reporting is accurate, facts have been verified and that the story is impartial. By applying traditional journalistic principles to new information sources, traditional media outlets can surely triumph in the digital age.

Professional news outlets and trained journalists are still very much needed in today’s crowded news space. Their role has in fact become more important as a means to cut through this noise with impartiality and neutrality.

So, despite this changing media landscape, when a big story breaks, it’s still the traditional journalists’ opinions that really matter.

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