Opinion - What has the internet done to and for journalism?

By Brenda Mockler

As a second-generation owner of The Echo in Dublin (established in 1980 by my father in our sitting room), when I'm asked about my opinion on the impact the internet has had on mainstream journalism, I automatically think about the decline in the consumption of print media and my heart sinks a little. But not for too long when I think about the 190,000 visitors to our website each month!

In 2005 The Echo boasted sales of 12,000 papers per week with a work force of 35. Today we have a circulation of 9,000 copies, a quarter of which are reduced price bulk sales and 22 staff, half of which are family. The financial loss to The Echo has ultimately had an impact on our journalists (past and present) due to pay cuts and redundancies that needed to happen in order for The Echo to survive.

opinion internet journalism

Front cover of the first edition of The Echo Newspaper, can you spot the typos?

Yes, people may know what’s going on before they turn on the radio or read a newspaper, thanks to their smartphone, but according to David Kennedy, Editor of The Echo, he said, “people may think they have all [the news] they want on their phones, but we need to show them otherwise.”

How we consume the news from the internet we then produce?

The consumption and quality of traditional news has drastically declined with the rise of New Media, AKA the Internet.

We now turn to the internet to search for news that offers us a snapshot of events as they happen around the world, feeding our ever-growing need for instant, 24/7, OMG, news, video and images, straight to our smartphone.

This has become a catch-22 for today’s journalists who also consume their information via the internet. Journalists now have a library of information available to them that provides sources and leads for stories. This information may not always be reliable, but in many cases, can lead to breaking major news stories.

The death of Whitney Houston first broke on Twitter by a man with only 14 followers, 27 minutes before the press.

internet news opinion

The death of Whitney Houston first broke on Twitter by a man with only 14 followers

Everyone is a journalist thanks to the internet

In an article written by David Squires, titled Social Media’s Impact on Journalism, he quotes author and journalist, Michael Skoler, who said, “today, journalism has morphed and formed into a type of writing that anyone can write”.

Would you agree, would you consider yourself a citizen journalist?

CNN world news thinks you are, they launched their iReport Iniative in August 2006 and in 2008 launched a new website built solely on user-produced content, allowing anyone and everyone to upload video and pictures instantly with little to no vetting.

By its 5th anniversary CNN claimed to have 1,002,428 registered iReporters from every country on earth – ALL unpaid!

internet news opinion

CNN World News have a website built on user-produced content and claim to have over one million registered iReporters

This wave of citizen journalists has greatly lowered the quality of journalism, with opinion winning over careful and unbiased reporting, adding to the rise in Fake News.

Professional online journalists are also impacted badly by the culture of getting copy up as fast as possible. They are not offered the time to properly research stories and verify information plus they now must source images and video content to accompany stories, adding to the workload with less time.

Journalism was always considered a 24/7 job but the internet has made this literal, resulting in the fear that today’s journalists will burn out due to this added pressure.

Internet news: Comment, Like and Shared Journalism

Journalism has moved from a one-way form of communication, to two-way communication between writer and reader. Mainstream news traditionally influenced the population, that has now turned on its head, with the population now influencing the news.

Journalists have no choice but to form a partnership of shared journalism with the audience instead of fighting them. Social media has given power back to the people, and as the saying goes, ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’.

Journalists thrive on reactions to their stories and now they too get that instantly to their phones, instant job gratification. 

The Echo newsroom was buzzing watching the stats rise on a video posted on The Echo Facebook page of local woman Evelyn Williams following her performance on Ireland's Got Talent on Saturday February 3. 

The more likes, shares and comments, the better. No social media user can deny that, personal or professional. 

Tallaght woman Evelyn Williams wowed the nation with her performance on Ireland's Got Talent, the video The Echo posted on Facebook reached over 1.2 million people with over 9k views

This however, has had a negative impact on investigative journalism, with so many sites under pressure to “break” stories in order to get the most clicks which translates into advertising revenue.

What does the future hold for journalism, who will pay the wage?

2016 saw U.S daily and Sunday newspaper circulation drop to its lowest levels since 1945, yet the New York Times added more than 500,000 digital subscribers.

People still want reliable, professionally written journalism on the internet, but expect it for free.

Today’s media landscape has changed so much with the digital era, but the business models of media companies have not!

This has a knock-on impact on the journalist who has to do more, at a quicker pace, for the same wage and to the same standard…leaving way too much room for error.

The digital era demands a change which will require investment, training and up-skilling…but how is this possible without the advertising revenue conventional media once offered?

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