The End of Journalism

Medium as a magazine platform illustrates the point.

Michael K. Spencer
Jul 21 · 9 min read

Sorry internet, words don’t matter, algorithms do.

Lately you might have noticed medium’s algorithm promotes its own magazines over the content of its community writers.

I have the luxury of listening to the hundreds of writers complaining about this on Facebook groups. However that’s only a symptom of a bigger picture problem.

In the past weeks, my articles have been curation banned. I am the most prolific business and tech news curator who adds my own opinions and creates op-eds on these trending topics on Medium, ever.

In an age of algorithms, levers, and editors, the end of Journalism is upon us. All of our hard work doesn’t always pay off. I’m not referring to myself here, I’m talking about the thousands of journalism jobs that have been cut since the advent of social media and apps as News and article content aggregators.

To quote Isabelle Roughol one of the higher-ups at LinkedIn Editors,

Newsroom jobs fell by 25% in the US in the last decade and by half in newspapers. 1) If you think the quality of news you receive has declined, well… yes. You can’t do as good a job with half the people. The Epstein story took Julie Brown and the Miami Herald Media Company two years (and more by others who tried and failed). Most newsrooms just can’t afford this anymore.

Digital Transformation Has Been Bad For Free Information

2) Digital-only made up about one in five jobs lost at newspapers. This matters because newspapers are where most original reporting happens. A lot of what you see online, on TV or on the radio doesn’t happen without newspapers doing the on-the-ground work. It’s not the loss of print that matters, it’s the loss of journalistic know-how and of the institutions. Even if you don’t buy a newspaper, you consume their work every day.

Advertising Killed Journalism

3) Media companies made many mistakes that got them here. But probably the biggest causes are the concentration of the advertising market in a duopoly (Facebook and Google) and the unbundling of news from other media needs — people never really paid for journalism, they paid for cartoons and football scores. Now they can get those without supporting journalism. So they largely don’t. Tech, media, government, and citizens all have a role to play in fixing this ecosystem. hashtag#journalism hashtag#media

The Moral of the Story

So this isn’t just exceptionally sad, this is a blow against democracy, freedom of speech, access to information and human rights.

Access to News and valid opinions (no biased slants) is now in 2019 nearly impossible to find. Even op-eds that are not just right or left, are impossible to find. Metanalysis on tech news articles that connect the dots, also rare to impossible to find.

What does it mean for platforms like Medium? A platforms that in recent weeks has (June/July, 2019) boosted their own publications to the detriment of community writers and indie writers.

What does it mean for the spirit of journalism itself?

As the news industry undergoes rapid change, newsrooms are confronted with continuously evolving challenges of the digital era. We are now the coal miners of the information and attention ecosystem. A dying breed of information lovers and quasi-writers who aren’t likely to have a future in this industry.

Are Journalists Today’s Coal Miners?

You bet we are, read all about it here.

Newsroom employment across the United States continues to decline, driven primarily by job losses at newspapers, according to the Pew Research Center. Local newspapers have disappeared in recent years, and there’s no sign they will ever come back.

  • The shift of paper to digital
  • Duopoly pressure of advertizing that cannibalized the industry
  • Closure of local newspaper outlets
  • Monopolization of Media and its ownership
  • Lack of peer-to-peer platforms around journalism
  • Rise of algorithmic censorship and SEO rinse and repeat copycat business coverage
  • Centralization of community platforms like Medium, that was supposed to be something better.

From 2008 to 2018, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 25%. In 2008, about 114,000 newsroom employees — reporters, editors, photographers and videographers — worked in five industries that produce news — Pew Center.

Canada has not faired any better where thousands of journalism jobs have been lost. Meanwhile, AI is improving in its ability to churn out articles, especially ones without much of a human element, creative spin or macro perspective.

In the junkyard of social media toxicity and video stories invading our feeds, the writing that is left is among the forgotten as consumers and digital addicts move more each year to video.

Advertizing drives eyeballs, it doesn’t service the truth. It’s corrupted the internet from the inside to the benefit of a few companies like Facebook or Google. The damage is already done, the future for writing online is not bright.

Journalists have lost their status as news’s exclusive gatekeepers while the economic base of many newspapers is eroding. Journalists must reach out to audiences that are becoming more and more diverse while newsrooms must be made attractive to a young and diverse talent pool who will have to be convinced that the news business still has a bright future.

Nobody in their right mind would want to be a journalist in the 2020s or 2030s.

In a world where algorithms are the truth, the internet is one manipulated ecosystem of bias. Google is not an ethical gate-keepers and Facebook doesn’t care about the truth, it cares about Ad dollars and how to monetize our data. There’s no Alphabet to the future of journalism, only destruction.

Journalists aren’t today’s coal miners due to the lack of diversity in the field as the Pew PDF argues, but because journalists are a slave to algorithms. Sure we need more diverse talent, but talent won’t hustle in an era of algorithmic bias which could last decades. This is because AI and Tech companies aren’t regulated. The AI to be able to regulate the algos hasn’t yet been developed.

This is why big platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook are so bad at self-regulation. Their scale has grown beyond their capacity or willingness to spend to fix the problem. It isn’t profitable to be safe, and so social media has become a toxic place full of algorithmic bias and human follies. The problem is the quality of the information has declined, those great articles no longer exist — occasionally you might find some in the New York Times or other digital publications.

The Extinction of Objectivity

Newpaper publishers will go extinct at the current rate of decline. But what will take its place?

I’m going to repeat this reality. The role of media in society is changing; the legitimacy of traditional news organizations is being questioned. As if we ever could trust the News who are owned by a wealthy elite? Journalists have lost their status as news’s exclusive gatekeepers while the economic base of many newspapers is eroding, and it’s only going to get worse.

Trust, the very fabric of exchange in an attention economy like the internet, is itself eroding as Tech companies continue their assault on our digital and private data.

Trust even in indie platforms that we once heralded as hopeful, like Medium, for the quasi-journalist among us like myself, is in dire straits.

Trust in the career of journalism is at an all-time low. The prospects for a young writer are meager at best.

The Advent of Clickbait Internet Attention Ecosystems

The ecosystems of social media are toxic and the influencer marketing networks unfavorable and biased (if not fraudulent). They are full of vanity metrics and polluted ecosystems of noise, clickbait and micro-video blitzes that have little relevance with quality information.

When I write about the end of retail or journalism, I mean the paradigm shift is so disruptive, they will never be the same. There’s no going back because the internet isn’t regulated in a proper way. This means BigTech will go unchecked becoming like walled garden nation-states in their own right. More powerful than countries, for sure.

While journalism is still a dream job for a considerable number of young people. They appear to be particularly idealistic. They don’t realize how bad it has become on the field or how the internet has been corrupted for the kind of ethical journalism they are taught. In an era of algorithms, that no longer exists.

In the freelance era of journalism, anything goes. While the new generation of journalists is very motivated, more flexible and more technologically savvy than previous generations.

At the same time, young journalists seem to be less loyal to one company and more interested in individual freedom. This is also because journalism and PR agencies as legacy institutions have adapted poorly to digital transformation.

The rules have changed and no longer favor quality, but results that algorithms afford, a Google world if you will. The truth doesn’t always matter in an attention gimmick ecosystem. Perspectives along the spectrum do not matter. Conformity to particular standards fo the algorithms do.

This is something a lot of writers today who have aged before the internet, do not fully grasp.

The new generation of applicants is more demanding in terms of work-life balance and development opportunities. This is a challenge for 24-hour newsrooms with a work environment that doesn’t permit too much flexibility.

Of course, neither does the career path of Journalism afford much sense of certainty or stability, like so many jobs uncertainty is now the new routine and order of the day.

Journalism hasn’t just lost its soul, platforms and digital publishing play by different rules.

Algorithmic rules of centralization and the push for eyeballs and growth, not quality. You can even witness this on the News found on places like LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium or Facebook. It’s not the level of a New York Times or others — it’s a common denominator of algorithmic news, less and less human each year.

Content empty of quality is more common than ever before.

On an internet of a constantly tweaked algorithm, there is no such thing as truth. This isn’t a facet of digital life, this is the new reality.

The Human-AI tag team of algos and editors has mostly failed us, both as readers and writers.

Medium is run like a business and LinkedIn doesn’t support independent content producers. (You can get nearly 10k comments on an article, and not earn a cent on LinkedIn.)

It’s hard for me to fully even explain how this works. It’s hard to fathom how bad it has become.

About a third of large U.S. newspapers have suffered layoffs since 2017

More layoffs mean more of a transition into a new fake internet. An internet of echo bubbles, algorithmic confirmation bias, automated stories that pubs repeat, a poorly curated internet of information.

Even the way Medium curates some articles and not others, some writers not others is a signal of widespread censorship occurring all over Silicon Valley in relation to information.

Platforms, advertising, and algorithmic control don’t just spell dangers to journalism, but of our participation generally online. It’s subtle, you don’t really notice it unless your livelihood depends upon it.

Finally, AI will Disrupt Journalism

One thing that’s not subtle, is the thousands of digital workers in journalism that will churn and have churned form the journalism industry.

The case can be made even dumb AI of algorithms has changed how we relate to information forever.

Dumb AI at the service of ad-revenue platforms that pretend to be something else, utilities like Google and Facebook.

AI will continue to evolve in how it is able to produce news and even subjective op-eds of collective events and circumstances. We won’t be able to even tell if they were AI generated or created by a human.

At least 36% of the largest newspapers across the United States — as well as at least 23% of the highest-traffic digital-native news outlets — experienced layoffs between January 2017 and April 2018, according to that Pew Research Center analysis we’ve been citing this entire time. That’s not just a bump in the road, that’s the end of journalism as we know it.

Finally share this article with someone you know, if you think this topic matters.

Further reading:

FutureSin

Futurism articles bent on cultivating an awareness of exponential technologies while exploring the 4th industrial revolution.

Michael K. Spencer

Written by

Blockchain Mark Consultant, tech Futurist, a prolific writer. DM me on LinkedIn for freelance quotes: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelkspencer/

FutureSin

FutureSin

Futurism articles bent on cultivating an awareness of exponential technologies while exploring the 4th industrial revolution.

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