10 ways the Internet is improving journalism
Is the Internet HELPING or HURTING journalism?
Editor's note: Last week, Muck Rack contributor and journalist Martin Cohen wrote a controversial post about the 10 ways the Internet is killing journalism. The post evoked a strong reaction from journalists on both sides of the fence. Today, we hear from a journalist and producer, Brigida Santos, who shares a differing opinion from Cohen.
The Internet has often been referred to as the end of journalism.
Newspapers are dying, satire is on the rise, and there’s so much content it’s hard to sift through it all and separate the good from the bad.
But believe it or not, the Internet is actually improving journalism. Millennials like myself have witnessed the change firsthand. Just because an industry changes doesn’t mean it is doomed. It is up to media distributors and journalists to evolve and keep up with the times.
Just because newspapers are on their way out, doesn’t mean journalism is. In fact, it is thriving in the digital age.
1. When a story breaks it can be published immediately. This has fueled the need for more content and ultimately led to more jobs for more journalists. It has also opened the door for journalists to cover all kinds of topics from many points of view, which only leads to a larger knowledge base and information sharing. No topic is off limits because somewhere out there, a publication, podcast, blog or web show is looking for something wacky, something weird or something different.
2. Credible yet alternative news sources can exist and compete. Before the World Wide Web, consumers could only get news from publications and television networks with enough funding to stay in business. But corporate money leads to biased reporting (ahem Fox News). Today, if a journalist has an Internet connection and a credible, well-researched and sourced story to tell, they can distribute it without a network or major newspaper. To the skeptics who say this leads to an increase in amateur content, you are right. But thoughtful, quality, unbiased, reporting will always stand out.
3. Yes, amateur or citizen journalism has undoubtedly changed the media landscape, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The digital age has put the power of journalism in the hands of the people who need it the most. Digital cameras, cryptography applications and mobile phones allow citizens in oppressed nations to spread their causes and stories worldwide while shielding themselves from oppressive regimes. Arab Spring and Occupy Central are two good examples where citizen journalism accelerated change and raised awareness.
4. Stories can be told with a simple revolutionizing hashtag. The #IceBucketChallenge spread the story of ALS to people who had never heard of the disease and raised more than $100 million for the cause as a result. In addition, just this week during the Oscars, #AskHerMore became a trending hashtag. It raised awareness about women’s rights, equality and sexism. Entertainment journalists and reporters listened to the #AskHerMore conversation taking place online and shifted their line of questioning to make sure they didn’t ask actresses and female filmmakers anything that would perpetuate sexist ideals. Instead of asking questions like, “Who are you wearing?” and “What was your diet today?,” the conversation turned into, “How did you prepare for such an empowering role?” The E! Network even banished their ridiculous mani-cam in response to the campaign. After all, they had never objectified a man by asking him to show off his nails.
5. Research is easier than ever. Remember Dewey Decimal-ing through libraries while researching writing projects? Well, somewhere between high school and college, the Internet moved away from dial-up and into broadband, making it easily accessible. In fact, it became so accessible that libraries and other businesses moved their operations online. Suddenly, books and journals were available from the comfort of one’s own home. Online research databases like LexisNexis and Google Scholar also showed up. Because of that, peer-reviewed data is right at our fingertips.
6. Fact checking is also easier than ever. Sites like PolitiFact, FactCheck.Org, OpenSecrets, and Snopes help journalists stay informed, weed through satire, and make ethical decisions. This means there is no excuse for bad reporting or spreading misinformation. Resources are everywhere. Use them!
7. New software, like the Creatavist, allows journalists and storytellers to create powerful, beautiful, and interactive projects across mediums. We can breathe life into our work by putting videos, sound bites, photos and clickable links on the page to give our readers a new type of sensory experience.
8. Young journos can get published and build clip or video portfolios much easier than before the Internet. YouTube was launched in 2005. Instead of moving to Scranton, Pennsylvania to work as a lowly reporter, I got a job as a producer and writer for an Internet broadcasting company. Many of my peers didn’t understand the digital media thing. They looked down on it. But the more they applied for jobs, and the more they were told they needed more experience, the more they began to embrace new media. In the digital age, we can just go out and create our own thing, make our own name.
9. Journalists can protect themselves better than ever before. Encryption tools and anonymous communication networks like Tor, or operating systems like Tails, allow journalists to keep sources safe, while at the same time hiding themselves from the watchful eye of anyone wanting to prevent them from publishing certain stories. Technology and investigative journalism go hand in hand. Look at Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras. They used these these technologies to protect themselves and because of their savvy, together they broke one of the biggest news stories of our time.
10. And last but not least, the Internet has allowed journalists to have a direct dialogue with readers through tweets, messages, retweets, and email. This one plays directly into the ego of the lonely journalist. Seeing real time reactions and getting real time acknowledgement makes work more fun. Every retweet or share or comment validates our often underappreciated art. If even one person acknowledges something I’ve produced or written, I know the work wasn’t all for nothing. Next time you see a truly stellar piece of work from an author, let them know. It will make their day.
Weigh in! Is the Internet helping or hurting journalism? Do you tend to agree with Martin or Brigida?
Brigida Santos is a Los Angeles based producer, journalist, and political correspondent. She is currently finishing her first book, In Lu of Justice, a non-fiction political thriller/memoir, in addition to producing and co-hosting the television series, "Off the Grid," with Jesse Ventura on Larry King's Ora Tv. Check out her website or connect with her on Twitter.
Photo: Newspaper on laptop via Shutterstock