10 ways the Internet is killing journalism
Editor's Note: The following is an opinion piece by Martin Cohen. Here at Muck Rack, we see both the drawbacks and multitude of benefits from the changing journalism landscape. We'd love to feature an opposing opinion here on the Muck Rack blog. Do you think the digital landscape has HELPED improve journalism? Want to write about it? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: Journalist and producer Brigida Santos threw her hat in the ring and wrote a response piece. You can check out her differing opinion, 10 ways the Internet is improving journalism, here.
[Controversial headline above]
What? You mean you hadn't noticed?!
Well, maybe I'm a bit ahead of the curve. But you'll agree that the Internet IS changing (or has changed?) journalism, right? Look at these ten changes I've spotted.
1. Everything's free. Remember the old days when unions insisted that everyone got paid for stories? People even got paid for typing the stories. Not now. Content is free and the cost of producing it is having to adapt.
2. Everyone's a celebrity columnist. Long, long ago, journalists followed a predictable career path. It started with college, followed by a few years on the Bugle learning the ropes, and only much later would senior journalists land features posts and cozy columns. Nowadays, you start as a columnist and immediately edit hordes of citizen reporters.
3. The skills needed change every year. In the good old days, journalists only needed two skills: shorthand and tea making. Not now! The smart journalist needs to be a video star, have a view on everything, and be a dapper dresser too.
4. On the Internet no one is reading you. That’s because sadly everyone wants to read the same site. And it's not yours. If your article used to appear in a paper that printed 100,000 copies, that sure felt like some kind of audience. But an Internet page with zero comments tells its own story.
5. The Churn just became a whirlpool. Well, you know, journalists like a fast pace. But on the Internet, stories last only a matter of minutes. It's kind of hard to keep up, there's no time for serious research, and by the time a story is filed, the readers have gone elsewhere.
6. Everything’s got to be said in tweets. It's good to be short and to the point, but a tweet is short and pointless. The Japanese art of writing koans is maybe more tricky, but certainly more rewarding.
7. The same story goes round all the time. I suppose this happened with print too, but it's the changed speed of things that makes the repetitions stick out awfully. Add to which, the 'lifestyle' stories go round and round in almost exactly the same form - 20 Beaches No One Knows About, 100 Ways to Have a Flat Stomach, 10 er… Ways the Internet is Killing Journalism…
8. Errors accumulate and reproduce to fill the space available. I used to like checking philosophical quotes–just to see just which one's were real and which one's the internet had hopelessly garbled. Now garbling philosophers is quite fun and probably harmless. But the Internet takes social perceptions, like say, that carbon dioxide is poisonous or that the Americans shot another Boeing down (maybe to sell more shale oil) and adds a spurious air of plausibility to them.
9. Wikipedia is the source. It is! Say you double-checked it if you like, but the other site, even the expert you spoke with, originally got their facts there too. And Wikipedia got it wrong. I’m not surprised, because I'm a regular contributor. Don't believe everything I write there! Sure, everyone says they corroborate what they get from it and would never be misled but journalists (Point 1) aren't getting paid much, no one's going to read the piece (Point 4) and the next story will be along in a microsecond (Point 5). So Wikipedia's teenage editors are deciding what's true and what false, what's right and what's wrong- and the journalists are just rehashing their views.
10. No one reads beyond the front page. One click is all you get. So that means stories about celebrities' selfies nestling up with stories about jihadi massacres, or worries about the Euro zone collapsing next to stuff about how to sell apps to start-ups, It's just a mess!
Martin Cohen is Editor of The Philosopher, a popular author and a regular contributor to various UK papers and magazines.
Photo: Laptop and newspaper via Shutterstock