This week we are talking about ‘News Business Online’ which means using words like ‘convergence’ and ‘platforms’ and talking about ‘the new media landscape.’ The main article for this week is ‘News 2.0?’ It talks about a predicted future for 2015. To be honest, I’m kind of over having to predict the future when we talk about news and new media.
Therefore, this week I will be putting on my negativity hat and purchasing one ticket to the dystopian future thank you very much.
My first problem with these predictions for the future is that we have this idea that because we see something going a certain way, we think ‘yeah that will pretty much continue going along like that.’ Maybe the internet won’t be popular in a few years time, maybe social media was just a phase, maybe we will start heading back the way we came and people will go back to relying on newspapers for information, or communicating by drawing on cave walls. You might be thinking ‘that’s pretty unlikely.’ But why is everyone so sure that things will just keep running in a straight line?
In these ‘predictions’ it usually involves some sort of future where citizen journalists are the flavour of the day and what we currently consider ‘journalists’ are old hat, and things we learn about in museums (assuming we still have them). But journalists aren’t just things, easily replaced by technology. Journalists ask questions. Questions that the ‘ordinary person’ might not think to ask, and even if they do, might not then want to investigate further. If we are continuing on the ‘everything will just continue in a straight line’ theory, I don’t foresee a future where journalists don’t exist. Here’s a link to an article that suggests a possible list for telling who is a journalist:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thomas-kent/whos-a-journalist-closing_b_4033856.html I believe that this demostrates that there is still a significant and seperate role for journalists.
Another problem I have with these predictions is society’s faith in the ‘ordinary masses.’ This predicted future might work in a future where everyone is an academic, but a lot of people make up the world, and a fair few ‘ordinary people’ tend to have this quality where they take everything they see, read and hear, at face value. Looking at my Facebook feed, the rubbish that gets shared and passed off as ‘news’ and ‘real’ is worrying. Not everyone has the ability to research, think critically, question, investigate, perform a Google search or visit http://snopes.com/.
‘Ordinary people’ need some sort of guidance, they need quality journalism so they have something to tweet, and retweet and share. Because the ‘average person’ is either lazy or busy, other than a Google search, they aren’t going to go and research something they want to know more about.
Many of my favourite novels are set in a dystopian future. And in these novels, there’s always an underlying issue that society has ceased to function in a way it should because people have stopped questioning things. The government tells them something, and they believe it. In Fahrenheit 451 people believe books are dangerous, they don’t question the way things are. That’s because at some stage, they lost the ability. (You can access the novel here: http://kisi.deu.edu.tr/murat.goc/451.pdf)
The future of news can both encourage that ability, and take it away. We are more connected to the world than we have ever been, and we can question things, so easily by looking it up online. But not everything that is online is necessarily true. That’s where journalists come in. It is more important than ever to have journalists providing ‘the ordinary people’ with the truth. If we begin believing everything we read, we begin sharing everything we think we know, and that’s dangerous. Journalists need to be asking questions and finding answers on behalf of everyone so that everyone has access to quality, timely, news. Not just re-shared stories.
My main point is that, yes, news consumers behaviours are changing, but that does not mean journalists will become any less important. This has been a pretty intense post, so now I’m going to include an award winning ad about quality journalism, while the citizens encourage debate, it is the journalists who dig deeper to find that there’s more to the story than it seems on the surface.
There’s a lot to think about here, hopefully it has provided some food for thought. I’ll finish with a quote from Fahrenheit 451, just to give you a little more to think about.
‘We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?’
Meikle, G (2009), ‘News 2.0?’ in Interpreting News, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 170-195