Brandon Hazelton Culture Society Society, Culture, and Security Technology

The New Face of Journalism in a Digital Age

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The drastic evolution of information technology and social media has led to a parallel shift in what it means to be a journalist in an increasingly globalised news sector. As a profession, journalism has become ever more undefined as it struggles to keep pace with the growing sector of information communication technologies (ICTs). Today’s technologically adept society demands instantaneous results. Modern journalism is therefore forced to adapt by creating new journalistic roles, skills and practices. One could even say that a whole new identity must be found, reconciling the traditional principles of transparency and objectivity with modern society’s expanding multimedia interests.

Information sources ranging from social media applications (such as Twitter and Facebook) to blogs and websites create a globalised network of information sharing. Such a variety of information types and storytelling sources often causes us to forget what it really means to be a professional journalist. In retaliation to this erasure, journalism has taken on two distinct characteristics so as to mitigate its concerns of becoming an obsolete enterprise. These characteristics focus upon convergence and participatory action. Cooperation and collaboration between newsrooms and citizens forge the “two main pillars of change” as both parties “play a more active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information”.

These “pillars of change” will give journalists a greater opportunity to broaden their communication network whilst stretching their information structure towards a more “horizontal and non-hierarchal model of journalism”. However, this subject area is not always of interest to more traditional journalists, many of whom feel that journalism and news reporting should be continue to be based upon the style of “we write, you read” — a style to which there is a hierarchy of communication. In the end, this type of viewpoint is short-sighted in the sense that people, in an increasingly democratised society, wish to engage with their news sources.

Modern journalism has done a great job in accepting and adapting to the changing technological environment. Current and future journalists are appropriately educated towards a discipline that now incorporates an extensive amount of multimedia sophistication. However, this adaptation process has not applied to all communication industries. Magazines, newspapers, and television networks, all of which that are an active source of information, have not invested in such a transformation as they are consulted less frequently nowadays than online news, satellite, cable, and radio. In the end, this contrast can be seen as a crisis that journalism is facing as a direct result of greater world-wide accessibility.

The internet has created a new form of journalism that is on the rise and slowly changing the rules of the game: “citizen journalism”. Mobile phones become impromptu recording devices, blogs become overnight op-ed sections, and social media accounts slowly morph into self-advertisement strategies.

With that in mind, let us now focus our efforts towards understanding the contemporary dichotomy of “digital journalism”. The internet has created a new form of journalism that is on the rise and slowly changing the rules of the game: “citizen journalism”. The latter has been notably facilitated by the improvement in information and communication technologies. Mobile phones specifically have allowed for citizen journalism to flourish, as many of them are equipped with cameras capable of recording and sharing news-worthy videos on an international level. Citizen journalism can also come in the form of a blog, Facebook site, or Twitter account. This form of digital journalism comprises the majority of online sources that are free from censorship and propaganda. The latter is therefore important in that it provides a voice for those who otherwise would not have one; with that, it reflects the altruistic philosophy that shapes modern journalistic endeavours.

So how does digital journalism sustain itself in a competitive capitalist environment where multimedia conglomerates and governments rule? Advertising. Various institutions and corporations have increased their spendings towards online advertisement while “reducing their spending on printed publications”. The emerging trend of using the internet as an advertising medium sustains a form of journalism that will remain both independent and focused upon maintaining transparency.

Overall, modern journalism or “digital journalism” is a growing phenomenon that is not due to die out anytime soon. By embracing this movement further, we can allow information and communication technologies to connect us as an international community. This does not mean that professional journalism is officially an obsolete enterprise — on the contrary, “there is still a major need for professional story telling”. However, it is important to realise that journalism can come in many different forms. It is our responsibility to navigate through these forms of journalism to best reflect not only our opinions, but to become aware of the realities that shape our understanding of the world itself.

Brandon Hazelton
Brandon Hazelton recently graduated from the University of Guelph, where he completed a degree in International Development Studies. During his studies, Brandon focused on historical perspectives, and undertook a minor in communication theories and processes. Growing up in Northern Ontario, Brandon gained a unique perspective on Canadian community-based development, specifically participative development policies. He hopes to pursue a career abroad in a research-based position focusing upon international relations and peace and conflict studies.