Digital Media and Journalism — The Ever Shifting Paradigm

  • Posted by Steve Goldberg
  • |
  • October 1, 2010

I’m staying late this Friday evening because I was inspired by two articles about the nature of Journalism in today’s velocious media milieu – both written from an educational perspective.  As a Digital Ad Sales Recruiter, my professional focus is on placing digital media sales and marketing folks.  But personally, I’ve had a fascination since Web 2.0 awoke around the notion of journalistic integrity.

With the popularity gained (and gaining) with blogs, and the challenges facing the more traditional media outlets (like ad dollars shrinking dramatically + the plethora of content source options), what is to become of journalistic veracity and unbiased reporting?  Would the guy down the street opining about this or that take precedence over a fact-checked story in the eyes of the mediasphere’s readers?  Will media outlets who pride themselves in honest reporting and fact-checking run out of the funds needed to maintain quality standards?  I ask this in all sincerity, even as I write this on my own blog.

As Jay Rosen, Ph.D., advises in his article (link below), a journalist’s authority starts with the notion that he/she “is there, you’re not, let me tell you about it.”  By this, he means that the journalist achieves credibility and reliability because, for instance, “I was at the demonstration, you weren’t, let me tell you how the cops behaved.” Or, “I interviewed the workers who were on that oil drilling platform when it exploded, you didn’t, let me tell you what they said.”  Or, “I reviewed those documents, you didn’t, let me tell you what I found.”

Mendacity is much too alluring in today’s society, where people will do anything in the name of money, ego, belief and political gain.  What is there to stop a right-leaning or left-leaning blogger from stating the untrue as true, for the sole purpose of manipulating the opinions of their readers (i.e., I was there, you were not, I can tell you anything I want)?  Answer:  nothing.  And will our youth be able to tell the difference?  Answer: I don’t know.

I am not so naive as to think that there are journalists today who are not the best fact-checkers.  And, there is plenty of bias to go around in all forms of media.  But the order of magnitude as more and more readers become writers, opiners become authorities, and prevaricators become popular, will be staggering.  The further away we get from the checks and balances inherent in journalism as we have known it, the more we risk a world where the information we hear, see, and come to know will be suspect in terms of the truth.  And as more sources of information out there gain acclaim, for good or ill, the harder it will be to sift through for information meant to report vs. manipulate.

But this train is not stopping at any station, anytime soon.  And I don’t have an answer for this dilemma.  To future journalists, read the articles below and elevate the tools of your trade.  But do not compromise your ethics for your success.  Set the bar high in what you write and what you choose to write about.

And to media consumers, I can only caution us all to stay alert to the phenomenon, and develop a “seventh sense” to distinguishing the ganefs from the Gandhi’s.

“Dishonest people conceal their faults from themselves as well as others, honest people know and confess them.” Christian Nevell Bovee

I share these links below:

The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation

September 19th, 2010 by Jay Rosen

How Journalism Teachers are Failing, and How to Stop It

by Wayne MacPhail, September 29, 2010