Impact of the Internet on modern Journalism

There are many issues faced by journalists and in the field of Journalism in general. The two issues that will be explored here are both linked with the incorporation of technology in the work that journalists have and people have access to. The rise of the internet has rapidly changed the environment journalists now operate in. Online news platforms and social platforms now merge into one, which brings two issues for journalism.

The first is how journalists must now present their information differently as opposed to using the traditional methods of radio, print and television. The second issue is how this change brings a lack of accountability and ethics for conveying the truth.

Journalists had grown up in an environment with a fortress mind-set, they were used to competing against other journalists from rival media organisations. Paul Horrocks pointed out,

‘they lived and worked in proud institutions with thick walls’ but ‘the fortresses are crumbling’ (Horrocks, 2009, p6)

in other words, the whole idea of journalism has expanded at its core since the arrival of the internet and institutions have had to adapt accordingly.

Contemporary journalism blends the old methods with the newer online and video platforms. Internet-based journalism created a juxtaposition, as it brought about the downfall of traditional journalism but created a new culture;

‘News has become 24 hours a day; immediate; available on new platforms; mobile. And now the latest powerful tool to change news — social media.’ (Bakhurst. K, 2011).

An example of this is Twitter, where beta-journalism is used as a process to piece together a story, this is when users exchange information on a story to piece it together. Jeff Jarvis (Townsend. J, 2011, p.75) explains,

‘in which writers admit what they don’t know, as well as what they do, and invite collaborations that will help improve their work’.

However, this can sometimes make it problematic to separate fact from fiction.

This leads to the second issue which is a lack of accountability and ethics for conveying the truth. All this information changing hands and being readily available at the touch of a button means competition is naturally high and people are willing to blur the boundaries and cross lines to essentially sell a story. A example of this is in the aftermath of the news that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash in Paris. Police had quickly moved to confiscate the film shot by the paparazzi and a number of newspapers made it clear to their readers they would refuse to pay for images depicting the incidents’ victims. A week later,

‘There’s no mechanism for suppression of information on the Internet, and while that’s part of the beauty of the medium, [it is] also the downside’ (Allan.S , 2006, p28) was made by ‘web expert’ J.C. Herz (cited in Network World, 8 September 1997).

An image surfaced illustrating Diana in the crashed vehicle on the web, a site specifically ran by ‘an anti-censorship group called Rotten Dot Com’ (Allan.S, 2006, p28), it was unclear if the woman trapped in the car was actually Diana.

The internet has brought challenges for journalists and the way we must now operate as part of a large community. Journalism has been freed from its restraints due to the change in technology and this can only be a positive. Whereas in the past journalists competed with each other shielded by their institution, now we are vulnerable to criticism openly. The internet and its users can see, follow and piece together a story just like professional journalists. Therefore we must uphold the morals and ethics, set an example to only seek the truth and embrace this new era.