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“The biggest challenge facing news-media firms today is the changing means of distribution of news through the news media platforms of the Internet and telephony, which deliver news…at a greater pace in more accessible formats and when consumers demand them” Freer (2007 p. 101).
Freer’s words reveal that indeed the internet has an impact journalism based on the way it has swayed people from accessing news through newspapers and or televisions. The entry of the internet has proven a hard nut to crack in terms of maintaining the traditional journalists’ practices.
Today, most of the audiences do not spend their time reading newspapers, watching television, or listening to the radio, as it was the case for the whole of the last century. To the younger generations, the use of social media has changed their perspective on newspapers. Today, people can access information via a variety of news channels. For instance, with the new media platform, which s the internet, one can access several media platforms at the same time through zapping.
The varieties of internet-enabled information gathering and dissemination tools were not in existence until late 2000. For example, blog, RSS feeds, Gmail, podcasts, YouTube, Twitter, HD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Androids’, e-books, and Google news have been born recently with a capacity to bring revolution in the world of journalism. As newspaper readership declines, the use of social media increases. The audience is consuming megabytes of information, which is being steadily supplied by the news media.
According to Bird (2009, p.293), consumers have had an excellent opportunity to access news quickly via their cell phones and or computers. Therefore, with this hint in mind, the paper reveals how the entry of the internet has had significant impacts on journalism. However, it will start by giving a brief background of journalism and a highlight of its link with the internet.
Background of journalism
Journalism is an exercise conducted by trained people in the field of collecting information in print, audio, or visual format with a plan to transfer it to people as a way of keeping them up-to-date. Journalists have relied on traditional media since the discovery of the printing press in the 1850s. According to Schudson (2003), people relied on the newspapers and their operations for nearly a century. However, with the coming of the internet Web 2.0, there came web based communities.
Many journalists and people have also learnt how to use such web applications to source for news. The audience has also gained a greater freedom of information access via social networking sites, use of wikis, use of video networking, and through blogs. As such, journalists have had to change from their traditional styles of gathering, packaging, and distributing news to modern internet-based journalism.
In fact, the social media poses the greatest challenge on today’s journalism. According to Deuze (2007), the challenge posed by social media on journalism may be a permanent one. Consumers are tended towards consuming what they want, where, and when they want. The internet has totally changed the face of journalism. The internet has advanced electronic journalism changing it from an information transformation career to information processing one (Schudon, 1995).
Internet journalism has resulted to various impacts. It has altered the function and nature of the media, enabled citizens to contribute to media content, disseminate information, counter news via virtual network, and to participate directly in news production. In fact, Jarvis (2006) refers the internet-based media as networked journalism.
Impacts of the Internet on Journalism
The first impact that the internet on journalism is that it has changed the functions and nature of journalism. This impact has been realized through elimination of the role of gatekeepers. Citizens can now access unfiltered information via the internet.
This case implies that, although the gatekeepers may edit certain information to fit their house rules, eliminate libel, or make it fit a certain space, the audience has other channels of accessing information. This argument means that the internet has opened more spaces for the audience. The era when the gatekeeper would edit contents for the audience has been eliminated by the internet. The internet has entirely changed the nature of journalism in the world today.
Today, journalists from across the world can exchange news information in real time. The internet has promoted information exchange across the globe. Live transmissions that stream via YouTube and Skype form other avenues that journalists have always exploited. The quality and variety of news items have also increased with greater information exchange via the internet. Journalists are also able to control the standards of their work through live comparison with other international media.
The second impact of the internet on journalism is that it has changed journalism from information diffusion to today’s’ information processing function (Schudson, 1995). The internet, which is the most recent media, has changed journalism just as other media platforms changed it.
The internet is unique in that it enhances interactivity and contact with other media. This uniqueness has resulted in significant revolution in journalism and its culture. With the internet, audience and the sources take almost equal roles in the process of information production.
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The past era when the media would shoot ideas into the audience’s mind has been overtaken by time. In the past, a journalist with a notebook or a camera was likened to a monkey holding a loaded gun and hence the former magic bullet role of the media. However, according to Bruns (2005), with the wide adoption of the internet, journalists are t compared with gate watchers meaning that their role has been reduced from the active gatekeepers to dormant gate watchers.
They have no ability to limit information flow: they are now watchers or better still witnesses. Journalists and citizens are now information exchangers since both rely on each other for information. Every citizen can communicate his or her opinions about certain news stories via the internet. In the same way, the audience participates in the process of information processing, which was former destined for journalists.
Schudson (1995) affirms that the major relevancy of journalism in this era has been sectored on its ability to professionally process information. With the current information overload from the internet, the quality of such information cannot be trusted. Today, people can upload pictures and news stories that are slanted toward achieving certain ends. To protect themselves from information exploitation, the audiences have to continue counterchecking such information from trusted journalists.
The third impact of the internet on journalism is that audiences have gained the authority to choose the information they want to consume. Bruns (2005) asserts that the internet has broken the information boundaries that existed over the years.
The information world is no longer limited by the geographical space. One can share news from a far continent in real time via the internet. The audiences can also choose what to listen to or watch via the internet, for example, through YouTube. They can also choose when to watch or listen to it through the process of zapping.
The internet has enabled journalists to reach out to their audience 24 hours a day. This accessibility also enables the audiences to give their feedback and or contribute to media content at any time in any day thus allowing free flow of information. Journalism has also benefitted from the impact of the internet. Callers can now e-mail or twit certain corrections of erroneous reports before they are widely disseminated.
For instance, if there is an error of the number of victims to certain accidents, the eyewitness audience can instantly communicate to newsrooms for correction thus playing the role that was initially meant for a journalist before the internet era. The audience can also use the internet to end the correct background sounds, pictures, and images. The audience has the ability to capture still pictures, motion pictures, sounds, and events and transmit them to newsrooms with a click of a button.
The internet has also promoted the currency of information offered to the public. Journalists use the internet to update information constantly. The use of digital broadcasting via the internet enables people to receive constant news update at the comfort of their offices, bedrooms, and even sports thus implying that one does not have to always carry a radio or a television set everywhere he or she goes. People can also receive filtered news information whenever they want it.
Bird (2009) affirms that, through the internet-enabled cell phones, audiences can search the internet for relevant news information. The internet has enabled a continuous flow of information in either dimension: from the sender to the receiver and vice versa. As many outstanding newsrooms turn towards politics, the internet has enabled the audience to access raw information before it is edited to fit certain angles.
This means that the policies and preferences of certain media houses have been interfered with by the entry of the internet. Some journalists and media houses that were turning to the extreme leftist or rightist have now been slowed down. The traditional bureaucracy that controlled the process of news production to favor certain segments has been invalidated.
The internet has totally changed the one-way communication that came with analog journalism. Every day, people are exposed to new technological devices that improve on speed, frequency, and quality and quantity of information that they receive. Through the internet, journalists can now compress large chunks of information into small folders in an attempt to transfer them miles away. Deuze (2007) affirms that today’s audience is no longer passive but a key player in news processing and dissemination.
The fourth impact of internet on journalism is that it has enabled the audience to contribute directly on media content and counter news. With the advent of the internet in journalism, audiences can make active contributions to the content that the journalist airs. Since the internet is a speedy communication media, the audience can communicate to the journalist in real time.
This communication alerts the journalist on happenings in different points of the world. Journalists have also broadened their reach due to their adoption of the internet. Information that journalists relay via the television or radio is thereafter redistributed.
The news is uploaded on the social networks like facebook. From these sites, more audience especially the young generation can access it. This accessibility has resulted to more integrated and quality news. People who do not have time to watch the television during news hours can also access what was covered in their absence via the internet. The new media platform heavily relies on users and gratification theory.
According to this school of thought, the media will give the audiences what they want. The media content that journalists air depends on the taste and preferences of the audience. With the coming of the internet, the trend of information flow is the two-way rather than the traditional one-way. Media audience participates directly in live programs through twitter and YouTube. Most stations have also opened call-ins.
Unlike in the past when journalism was left to a few trained experts, armature journalists have come up with the internet age. Today, armature camera operators can record a live occurrence and send it via the internet to newsrooms. This strategy is another way that journalism has been enriched via the internet. One does not need to call a reporter to record an event. He or she just needs to record and send it via the internet.
Due to this impact of the internet, markets for media business have become fully disjointed. Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004) posit that, as the audience moves to other quicker and free media for information, advertisers have followed them there. This argument implies that a considerable portion of the audience that previously depended on the old media has moved to the internet.
Advertisers therefore have no choice but to follow them. The advertising markets today are using blogs and social network sites for their wares where their target markets are and hence the need for them to move with it. The internet has therefore resulted in radical changes especially in media houses that want to remain competitive in certain regions of the world.
Such media houses have to hire journalists that are familiar and competitive in online journalism business because media mainly drives its profits from advertising. According to Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004), organizations are now focused on co-creation of products with their consumers. This focus has resulted to their overly use of the internet to source for the tastes and preferences of their customers.
Social network sites and blogs have taken over the role of the traditional media in this case. The internet has resulted in substantial changes in the communication industry. Information consumers can access any information they want at all times. One does not have to wait for one o’clock news to know what happened in another continent. News update internet channels are always on the lookout. However, the relevancy of journalists will remain.
In conclusion, the advent of the internet has thoroughly changed the face of journalism in the world today. Before the year 2000, most internet gadgets like iPods, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs, and Google search were not actively used in journalism. With today’s digital age, journalists cannot operate without the internet. In fact, the internet has resulted in various impacts on journalism.
These impacts are, for example, change from information transmission to processing, change in the function and nature of journalism, giving the audiences authority to choose the media information they want to consume, and enabling the audience to contribute directly to media content. Journalists will remain crucial for purposes of professionally processing information since journalists’ approach to news is the only way that the audience can distinguish between quality news and junk information.
Bird, S. (2009). The future of journalism in the digital environment. Journalism, 10(3), 293-295.
Deuze, M., Bruns, A., & Neuberger, C. (2007). Feedback mechanisms. Management Science, 49(10), 1407-1424.
Freer, J. (2007). UK regional and local newspapers. In P. Anderson & c G. Wood (Eds.), The future of journalism in the advanced democracies. London: Ashgate.
Jarvis, J. (2006). Networked journalism. Retrieved from https://buzzmachine.com/2006/07/05/networked-journalism/
Prahalad, C., & Ramaswamy, V. (2004). Co-creation experiences: The new practice in value creation. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 18(3), 5-14.
Schudson, M., (2003). Sociology of news. New York: Norton.