The Future of Journalism and the Newspaper
While it is common knowledge that newspaper circulation is in decline – the cause of which being regularly attributed to the rise of internet, very few have interrogated the type of journalism we are presented with.
It was refreshing to listen to Sir Max Hastings therefore on Monday enforcing the strength of newspapers against broadcasting and online. Claiming that journalists should be active and out on the streets searching for stories was music to my ears as a trainee journalist. Whilst I am not against the rise of new media in anyway the unstable nature of newspapers, particularly in the on going global economic crisis is a concern. The growth of online and the potential for podcasting, videos, blogging and open comment forums can only be a good thing to provide a fast amount of detail and information on any news story built what does this mean for the reporter. The increase in the demand for instant news he claimed is chaining journalists to desks preventing them from being journalists.
So what is the role of a journalist in this new age? As illustrated by the power of Robert Peston’s blog early this week, which led to shares in HBOS falling 42%, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) dropping 39%, Barclays shedding 9% and Lloyds TSB declining 13% new media is very powerful, but extremely dangerous and not fitting in with the role of the journalist. Journalists are there to inform, providing a service to the public
Whilst his claims against the negative aspects of online journalism were not as clear as his argument against broadcasting – the inability to engage and analyse a story in great depth, I was glad to hear the answer to – what is a journalist? – will ultimately never change completely. It may bend slightly to adjust with a rapidly changing society and medium.
There is an issue between theory and practice though and Roy Greeenslade was quick to address this in his weekly lecture on Journalism and Ethics at City University. Journalism is special. News is special. Without it how can the general public “play a responsible role in society”? The role of a journalist is to inform and educate, but the problem lies with the conflict between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ journalism. Achieving ‘ought’ journalism, or pure journalism to use a less ambiguous term is somewhat of an unachievable target.
Any news whether it be a story on Amy Winehouse or the latest in the banking crisis, is still news, and if it is the news the public demands, then newspapers obligation is to report it. The public control the fate of the press, if they are not interested in the news in a paper they simply won’t buy it. Whatever the story whether it is a celeb fix or hard news story on politics or the economy it is still informing and education the public. It is importance of achieving and identifying the difference between amusing and informing which is essential to the future of the press and the journalists whose purpose it is to unearth it.
The concept of pure journalism or what journalists aspire journalism to be can never be achieved. Many talk of a golden age of journalism, but in many respects there never has been such a thing. Many who hate the smut and brainless nature of some news in today’s press forget that it has always been presence in some form since the very beginning.
The issue therefore is striking a balance. Journalism though as Mr Greenslade states is about providing “information to citizens of a country, region or city – even the world – in order that they can know as much as possible about what is being done to them, for them and about them”. As long as journalism continues to this, the strength of the medium is surely guaranteed? As Sir Hastings advocates, the power of the medium is so strong it can never be replaced, no matter how much the online medium evolves. Only time will tell if this proves to play out in reality but as long as newspapers and journalism continue to evolve, the disappearance of the news stand will never become such a terrifying reality.