Currently everyone is an eyewitness and therefore everyone is a journalist. This means that the traditional role of journalism is being shrouded in a black mist. If journalists used to collect information from a few witnesses and then publish or broadcast it to the wider society, the witnesses themselves no longer wait for the journalist to come. They use the available digital platforms to spread the message themselves. This puts traditional journalism in a rather tight corner; they are being made a fifth leg on a stool.
Secondly the quality of information being shared by witnesses has to be compromised. But of course there is no doubt that information sharing has become faster than ever before. The authenticity of the information being shared is now a different discussion.
It is evident that usage of social media as a source of news is increasing. However, in divided societies the dissemination of false ‘news’ through social media can threaten community cohesion. This calls for a need to establish organizations that will help to validate social media stories. This means that professional journalists still have work to do here.
It is worth noting that the so-called ‘news’ provided by social media may not present the full picture. It may give a partial, partisan or deliberately distorted view of an event. The insistence on the factual ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘why’ of any story, which traditionally underpinned reported journalism, is being eroded. Just like I have already pointed out, the irony of the situation is that the proliferation of free news demonstrates the continued need for journalists of integrity. The major unfortunate bit is that it threatens the very revenue streams needed to support their work.
Newspaper readership has been in a downfall since 2008, when digital media started to takeover. It’s a trend that will most likely continue, turning print newspapers into a luxury item primarily intended for subscribers. The publishing media just like any other business venture runs on a budget. As long as revenue collections are dwindling some publications are at the verge of total extinction.
Recent journalism career statistics show that the declining demand for journalists will lead to a total shrinking of the market by 10.1%. Meanwhile, competition for traditional roles in journalism is likely to become fiercer. On the other hand, opportunities for freelancers, digital content creators, and editors, especially those in smaller niches, will continue to grow.
The biggest blunder we can make as a society is to underestimate the importance of serious journalism and the sacrifices that journalists make in the quest to report real news in real-time to their audience. Serious journalists place themselves at considerable risk if they are to uphold the values of honesty and integrity while delivering newsworthy content to their readers but this harsh reality is often overlooked.
The gradual shift to digital media only poses the same threat; it is getting more and more difficult to recognize fake news on websites and social media. Those spreading false information became savvier than ever in distributing posts and developing sophisticated websites. That’s one of the reasons why 49% of the people who shared fake news on social media only later found out that the information they shared was false.
And what is even more alarming for the current news media landscape is that 10% of those who shared fake news did so intentionally, being fully aware they are sharing falsified information.
According to the Guardian Reports, the Oxford English Dictionary only added the term ‘fake news’ to the dictionary in 2019 but the use of the term increased by 365% from 2016 to 2017 alone. ‘Fake news’ became popularized during Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign in 2016. Although the former U.S President claimed to have created the term, it has been around since the 19th century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
But fake news causes distrust in the media, undermines the democratic process. And it is a platform for harmful conspiracy theories and hate speech. All these new challenges drum back the same message that professional journalism is much more needed than ever before.
But there are still opportunities for news media and journalism in today’s changing media environment.
It is no longer a rumor that we are moving towards an increasingly digital, mobile, and social media environment with more intense competition for attention.
In this environment, a limited number of large technology companies enable billions of users across the world to navigate and use digital media in easy and attractive ways through services like search, social networking, video sharing, and messaging. Legacy media like broadcasters and especially newspapers by contrast are becoming relatively less important as distributors of news even as they remain very important producers of news. They are also under growing pressure to develop new digital business models as their existing sources of revenue decline or stagnate. The general response from legacy media has been a combination of investment in pursuing digital opportunities, cost–cutting and attempts at market consolidation in pursuit of market power and economies of scale.
It is highly risky to be an indiscriminative consumer of information. You can still use your education and experience to check for the authenticity of the information at your disposal first by learning how to spot it. Always consider whether the information has a named or reliable source. Develop a critical mindset when reading news stories and think about what might be missing from the story.
Fake news often leaves information out of the story. Double-check whether quotes attributed to a particular person or group, have been represented accurately and look for fake images. If it is a fake news story it may include a fake image or images that might not be relevant to the story. And if you believe it is fake, check the image on Google reverse.