Opinions

The Issue: Has the Digital Age Improved Journalism?

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By Ryan Klein

Yes

The Digital Age has improved journalism in obvious and numerous ways. Not long ago, a news story could spread only so fast and so far as someone could carry it. Whole towns were once limited to the perspectives of their local publishers. Nowadays, thanks to the Internet, even the smallest stories are instantly accessible to an unlimited number of people; today, one can hear a single story from thousands of perspectives. To borrow a line from journalist Aleks Krotoski, “If knowledge is power, the Web is the greatest tool in the history of the world.”

But journalism is not perfect. We were once responsible for keeping up with only a few stories at at time, most of them local at that. Now unlimited global access drowns us in stories about unlimited numbers of alarming subjects, both familiar and unfamiliar. Consider this story: “An al-Shabaab suicide bomber attacks a Somali military training base in Kismayu.” What is al-Shabaab? Where is Kismayu? For most people, reading this is like starting a book halfway through.

Some might argue that journalism was better off before the Digital Age, but I believe that such a statement would be rash. Journalism has always faced challenges; we simply need to deduce the particular challenges of our current journalistic climate.

Consider two kinds of challenges. On the one hand there are those challenges that lead to improvement, like the challenge of learning to use a complicated tool that will eventually make life easier. On the other hand, there are those challenges that threaten decline – for example, the challenge of paying for surprise insurance charges that one cannot afford.

I think the challenges that journalism is facing today are akin to the former. Perhaps journalists have wrongly come to expect their readers to be familiar with certain subjects, but they can recognize that problem and write for a broader audience. Perhaps stories have become more difficult to follow given their global scope and constant updating, but journalists can recognize this problem and work to fix it, and readers can learn to research and discover continuity of their own accord.

But even as things are, it remains true that the average person knows more about what is going on both in the world and in her area than she did before the existence of the Internet.

The problems journalists face in the Digital Age are not dead ends; they are parts of the process of improvement, and we are equipped to deal with them.

Sources:

Reuters.com, TheGuardian.com

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By Lauren Murphy

No

In an age when we are constantly wired, we are inundated with information. We have come to rely on technology as a means of communicating with one another and sharing news and ideas. Indeed, technology has become an indispensable part of most people’s lives.

Unsurprisingly, then, news comes from everywhere and everyone. Technology provides an unrivaled platform for the transmission of news through television and the Internet. Journalists can now report a news story within hours of the event. This means that consumers receive news in an unprecedented way: much faster than many might have thought possible, they are propelled into the unfolding of a story and ride the crest of the news wave as it breaks with them.

With every news source trying to get the scoop and release its stories first, consumers can suffer because they are not getting the complete truth at one time. In many cases journalists rush to pass on the details as soon as they begin to surface, not realizing that the story they hastily deliver may be an incomplete account of an event or a situation. This can be dangerous in particularly sensitive cases, such as in the instance of violent crime. Little may be known about the identities of those involved, and the only details yet known of what happened may be vague and could easily be misunderstood when relayed to the public.

Another obvious sign of haste is the all-too-common online news article that contains misspelled words and grammatical errors. These careless mistakes are proof of a sloppy job. Have we begun to sacrifice quality for speed? Is it really that important to be the first to finish the race when the result is tripping over the finish line?

In short, is reporting a story that has hardly yet been developed honest? Is it ethical? When minimal information and sometimes even inaccurate details are provided by news sources, we are not getting the truth. We are sacrificing too much for the sake of instant gratification, for the luxury of reading a story as the story is unfolding.

Journalism today should be better than ever. We should have attained a superior standard and benefited from the Digital Age. Perhaps we have gone too far and need to take a step back in order to gain from the tools that were designed to help us.

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