No, really. Thank you.
Note: This post is part of #PublishEveryDay, a writing challenge I am doing to publish seven blog posts in seven days. I asked the social media sphere for writing prompts. Today’s question comes courtesy of Philip Batzner.
How has technology positively and negatively affected the current state of journalism?
My résumé proudly proclaims that I will graduate from Marquette University in a matter of months. Yes, that means entering the “real world” I have heard so much about. There will be a moment when I can no longer hide behind the excuse of being a student and need to get a j-o-b.
Please, ask me this instead of what I’m doing after graduation
A do not forget for myself and other grief-stricken seniors before the ‘real world’ ¶
There is one hiccup with this whole plan of getting a job: I am hoping to enter the journalism industry. The news industry is fading, at least by conventional standards. According to the American Society of News Editors, the newspapers employed nearly 4,000 less journalists in 2015 than in 2013.
After reading “Page One: Inside The New York Times and the Future of Journalism” by David Folkenflik, I realized that the world is no longer dependent on some coffee-fiend journalist like myself to report the day-to-day news. Anyone with a Twitter or Periscope account can do that. The exponential advancement of technology has allowed every greasy-fingered teenager (or likely pre-teens at this point) with a smart phone to do my work of capturing and publishing world realities.
The ability for anyone to report the news has done wonders for the freedom of speech and the ability to hold powers accountable, though. A 29-year-old Google marketing executive named Wael Ghonim brought attention to violence in Egypt and helped spark the country’s revolution with a Facebook post about a murdered Egyptian.
So, has technology bulldozed any hope to have a business card that reads, “journalist”?
My unequivocal answer is no. Absolutely not. While I concede that there are less traditional reporting jobs, there has never been a greater need for investigative journalists. Technology has provided the news media with a constant stream of stories to investigate. Someone — cough, a journalist, cough — has to be willing to dig through public records to reveal corruption. Investigations, such as the uncovering of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal in 2002 by The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team, would not be possible if every journalist was chasing the day-to-day news story.
In 2015, NPR and ProPublica investigated the failure of the American Red Cross to use the $500 million it raised to aid Haitians in the wake of an earthquake. A summary of the report noted that the investigation required a “review of hundreds of pages of the charity’s internal documents and emails, as well as interviews with a dozen current and former officials.” Uf da. Not exactly a job any Joe Blow is going to pursue on a Saturday morning.
Journalism that can dig into a story and create social change, such as the fellowship Marquette offers in public service journalism, are the antidote to the damage to journalism inflicted by technology. The next step for the industry is finding a sustainable way to fund these projects. Are you familiar with those (annoying) paywalls that restrict you to several articles a month? They are the best solution, so far, to generate enough profit to cover the rent, grocery bill and tab at thrift stores for writers like me.
Technology is not all bad. It has given me new opportunities and allowed me to better pursue my passion. And, when I am doing so, you can all be annoyed to see me post, tweet, Snapchat and Instagram about it. Thanks a lot, technology.