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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.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sir Max at the top, but Mr Hastings by the end? You’ve de-knighted him Matt.

    October 9, 2008
  2. Matt Robinson #

    Many thanks for pointing this out, text has been corrected

    October 14, 2008
  3. samal85 #

    I agree that the disappearance of the newsstand will never happen, however, I’m curious if you can at all elaborate on Sir Hasting’s negative views toward online journalism? I understand his claims were somewhat muddled, but I attended a lecture this morning that featured Peter Bhatia, the executive editor of The Oregonian, and he also favored print media over online content. I blogged about it — hoping my PR ties to The Oregonian were in no way jeopardized by the subject of my post — this morning and mentioned that while I understand newspapermen are dedicated to their medium, I find it ignorant of the times to discredit blogs and online journalism. Your thoughts?

    October 16, 2008
  4. Joseph M.S.V. Fomolu #

    I was afraid at first at the future of hard copy newspaper since the advent of online newspapers. However, after careful and long reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the newsaper yesterday will stay forever.

    Hard copy print need not fear the new media. The newspaper is as relevant as it was 500 years ago. Many people do not have access to internet, especially in Africa and other Asian countries. The newsaper is still useful.

    The newspaper is portable; computer is not. I can carry the newsaper anywhere, at anytime, but I can’t carry the computer and server. I don’t need to switch on the newspaper in the morning before reading. Electricity available or not, I can still read my newsapaper.

    In a newespaper, I would have time to read all the stories, or even those that I select to read. The internet will not give me the chance. Server can sometimes be a an obstacle.

    Newsapapers published offline are veriable, but most papers published online these days are full of defamatory articles and inaccurate reports.

    Emphasis should be on training in media literacy and media content.

    December 5, 2008

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