Journalism goes hand in hand with both technological and social advancements. As technologies advance, so do our capabilities of sharing information. And if history has taught us anything it's that social trends dictate which information we deem worthy to share and how we chose to phrase it. Therefore, to fully appreciate the role of journalism in a digital age, and how it is likely to evolve, it is vital that we consider both aspects.
Our ability to share and receive information is largely based on the medium we use. This is why all the milestones in information technology, from the Gutenberg press to the Internet, have had a profound impact on journalism. But, even though we understand these technologies, it can be quite difficult to outline how they've impacted journalism as a whole. In our view, journalism it the digital age is marked by three key aspects: mobile devices, social media, and AI. Therefore, it is important to consider all three in order to get a decent idea of the whole.
The proliferation of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, has significantly transformed the way people consume, produce, and engage with news and information. While before we had to turn on our TVs or at least sit down with a computer, mobile devices enabled us to check the news whenever, wherever. As you can imagine, this has had a profound effect on journalism.
Accessibility and Portability
Mobile devices have made news and information more accessible and portable than ever. At any moment you can check your phone and see whether there is any new information. This, in turn, has incentivized journalists to focus on real-time updates and breaking news stories instead of long-term analytics work.
Mobile devices enable users to receive push notifications, follow live blogs, and engage with social media platforms to stay informed as events unfold. Unfortunately, this means that modern users don't have to look for information, but are bombarded constantly by it. In order to garner the attention of mobile users, both marketing managers and journalists look to incorporate multimedia elements. This includes videos, photos, web stories, animations, and interactive graphics. Doing so enhances the storytelling experience and provides a richer understanding of the news. But, it can take away from the quality of the information since attention-grabbing is the top priority.
Another thing to keep in mind is that mobile devices enable citizens to become citizen journalists. People can capture and share videos, images, and eyewitness accounts of events. This makes user-generated content an integral part of news coverage. They can also give their input on various subjects and comment on ongoing new reports. A large number of journalists see this as an integral part of modern journalism. While before, we could consider journalism as having a news provider (journalist) and a news receiver (the public) this is no longer the case. The modern viewer is both the consumer and the creator of content, which fundamentally changes how journalism works.
In summary, the increased use of mobile devices has had a profound impact on the practice and consumption of journalism. It has brought about greater convenience, accessibility, and interactivity while also presenting challenges related to misinformation and the need for responsible journalism in the digital age. Mobile journalism, often referred to as "mojo," is an evolving field where journalists leverage mobile devices for reporting, editing, and broadcasting, further demonstrating the close relationship between journalism and mobile technology.
If we take a closer look at how journalism works, we'll see that it is deeply intertwined with social media. As social media developed, the more they became interwoven. This relationship has transformed the way news is produced, consumed, and distributed. Keep in mind that social media developed alongside mobile technologies, which is another reason why they are a key part of journalism.
Distribution and virality
Whether professional journalists like it or not, social media has slowly grown to play a central role in the distribution of news. Regardless of the size of the journalism brand, or the type of news they output, they will still need to utilize social media if they wish to reach any notable audience. Articles, videos, and infographics can go viral, reaching a wide audience quickly. Therefore, the role of journalism in the digital age can be easily seen as information sharing through, by, and for social media. This can result in rapid dissemination of both credible information and misinformation. Or it can lead to journalists establishing themselves as legit social media posters.
Transparency and accountability
Social media has facilitated greater transparency in journalism. The Internet, as a whole, has made us more aware of how easy it is to manipulate data and provide faulty and biased information. This is why more and more viewers demand that journalists share their research, sources, and reporting process.
This enhances trust and accountability while making the job of modern journalists a bit harder. Journalists can look to fact-check different viral information and provide a more informed take, thus building their credibility. But, they are also viable to experience similar scrutiny from their peers and from the public at large. All in all, it is more important than ever to fact-check your information and only provide credible data.
Challenges of ethics and sensationalism
As you can imagine, this fact-checking and streaming for credibility makes it essentially impossible to practice sensationalism. After all, you cannot be the first to publish something if you take the extra time to fact-check. And being sensational usually doesn't go hand in hand with being tasteful in how you phrase your news (especially titles). In our view, it is important that journalists navigate ethical challenges in web storytelling with utmost care. This includes issues related to privacy, sensitivity, and avoiding sensationalism to gain clicks and likes.
AI development has the potential to fundamentally alter the role of journalism in digital ways. Before long we may even see AI information channels, where AI systems gather, filter, and produce data specifically catered to our interests. This effect of personalization has become a major trend in marketing. And it is quite likely to spread to any other form of information sharing. Therefore, in order to see where journalism is headed, it is vital that we understand the basics of AI and how publishers tend to use it.
Automated content generation
AI-driven tools, like natural language generation (NLG), can automatically generate news articles, reports, and summaries based on structured data or templates. This can be particularly useful for producing routine, data-driven stories, such as financial reports or sports summaries. AI most likely won't be able to mimic the feel of storytelling that professional journalists are capable of. This is one of the main reasons why journalists don't have to fear much for their jobs. However, AI will reduce the need for low-level journalists, especially in the aspects of data analytics and research.
AI can handle vast amounts of data and extract valuable insights for investigative journalism, particularly in areas like data journalism. It can uncover trends, anomalies, and connections that may be challenging for human reporters to identify. This, if used properly, can be quite helpful for journalists as they can further focus on creating well-researched content. Whether journalists like it or not, AI is only going to become more integral to the process of journalism. And the sooner they adapt to it, the better.
AI is not only good at analyzing exciting data but also in using that data to predict future trends. AI can help news publishers predict audience behavior, such as which stories are likely to go viral or which topics will generate the most interest, allowing for more strategic content planning. From a certain standpoint, this is beneficial, as news companies can effectively do market research with relatively low effort. But, doing so drastically changes how we perceive and develop news.
Lastly, AI can help news organizations deliver more personalized content to their readers. By analyzing user behavior and preferences, AI can recommend articles, topics, and sources that are most relevant to individual readers, enhancing the overall user experience. With AI, journalists can determine what their readers are like, and try to curate their content to their preference. As we mentioned before, personalization is a growing trend that is only going to become more predominant as AI and big data analytics develop
AI development is likely to have a profound impact on journalism, enhancing efficiency, personalization, and data analysis. But, it is important that we recognize AI as the game-changing tool it is. There are serious ethical considerations to consider in regards to using it. In our view, it is vital that journalists adopt a stricter code of ethics when dealing with information if they are to stay relevant in the digital age. Without it, they will be just as relevant as everyday users and content creators.
Besides technology, ongoing social trends have a significant impact on journalism. Which topics we chose to cover, how we report those topics, and how we discuss them after reporting. These are all heavily influenced by social trends. This is why it is vital that we consider them if we are to discern what role journalism will play in the modern age.
Diversity and inclusion
The growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion in society has led to increased attention to representation in journalism. There is a greater push for diverse newsrooms and more coverage of underrepresented communities and issues, reflecting the social trend of valuing inclusivity. This emphasis on diversity and inclusion is likely to remain for the following years. Therefore, it is important that journalists remain true to it for the foreseeable future.
Mental Health and well-being
Another emerging trend in the news landspace is increased awareness of mental health issues. On all platforms, we can see more in-depth reporting on mental health, wellness, and related topics. Journalists are also more cognizant of ethical reporting when covering sensitive issues related to mental health.
Climate change and sustainability
The previous summer was one of the hottest ever. Information such as this is widely accessible, and more and more focus is shone on climate change. As environmental concerns and sustainability become more prominent in society, journalism has increased its coverage of climate change and related topics. This reflects the growing public interest in environmental issues. On the one hand, we have climate change activists who tend to take a radical approach. And on the other, we have climate change deniers who look to put aside the evident changes in climate. The role of journalists should be to take a more nuanced approach and provide important, science-based information to the public at large.
Fake news and misinformation
Unfortunately, there is a notable social trend of misinformation and fake news. It is easier than ever to create fake information and promote it as true and factual. This trend has prompted a renewed focus on fact-checking and verification in journalism. Journalists need to take steps to combat misinformation and educate the public on media literacy.
We are all aware that social polarization has affected journalism, with some outlets catering to specific political ideologies or audiences. This trend has raised questions about the role of journalism in maintaining a balanced and objective reporting style. Unfortunately, partisan journalism is on the rise. So much so that certain news networks can easily be seen as propaganda outlets. It is important that journalists take a step back from this type of journalism and focus on using their skills for the benefit of all.
Globalization and international reporting
With the world becoming increasingly interconnected, there is a trend in journalism to provide more international coverage. This reflects the growing interest in global events and issues where people wish to know as much as possible about important events. But, it has also made it quite easy to hide equally important events from the global audience. In our view, responsible journalists need to focus on a certain area of expertise and provide as much info about that area as possible. The more they broaden their area of coverage, the more important information flies under their radar.
Final thoughts on the role of journalism in the digital age
Journalism still serves as a primary source of information for the public. It plays a vital role in keeping citizens informed about local, national, and international events. Whether it's breaking news, investigative reporting, or in-depth analysis, journalism helps people make informed decisions and understand the world around them. Therefore, the role of journalism in the digital age is to remain as true and unbiased as possible. This, of course, has become increasingly difficult. In order to garner attention from the public which has very little, journalists chose to use sensationalist methods. And in this regard, even AI tools can be of great help. What we hope is that journalists take their role seriously and avoid the pitfall of choosing short-term sensationalism over the informative, data-based truth we so sorely need.