journalism
Newer media outlets, such as Complex and Buzzfeed, have irrevocably changed the news landscape, though critics posit that their legacy has been mostly negative (Image via Nieman Reports)
Culture /// News & Politics x
journalism

Are clickbait and biases the future of mainstream news outlets?

When you hear the word journalism, what images come to mind? Do scenarios with young people running around in a New York City office conducting interviews and typing on laptops instantly pop into your head? Or is it an old-fashioned, wisecracking reporter sitting behind a desk carefully poking at a typewriter while a lit cigarette hangs from his mouth? Maybe it’s fictional characters like Clark Kent and Lois Lane.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but journalism is dead — at least, how the prior generation perceived and understood journalism is dead, and the internet killed it. While television and radio broadcasting forced journalism to update its tactics, the combined efforts of social media and the internet provided the say-all in reshaping the industry.

In the years following the internet’s rise to prominence, print media began a steady decline, followed by a surge of online publications that quickly sprung up to replace the pre-existing medium. The regime change left a much-respected profession — and arguably art form — with more uncertain questions than concrete answers as to its future.

The very definition of journalism itself has been called into question in recent years as a result of controversial outlets, such as Buzzfeed and TMZ, breaking onto the scene, as well as the birth of organizations like WikiLeaks that offer an alternative to conventional news sources.

As a result, it’s entirely commonplace for pop culture and celebrity gossip to sit directly alongside stories concerning Middle Eastern conflict and high school shootings on a publication’s front page, a new norm that the public seemingly adapted to with relative ease. However, the understanding that journalism may never return to its former glory is a fact many have come to accept, begrudgingly or otherwise.

The notion of portraying the news as entertainment remains a much-disputed topic within the world of journalism and adding publications’ attempts at appealing to the millennial demographic to the conversation only worsens the picture. Despite its importance, reading or watching the news is not exactly at the top of the agenda for many college students due to the stigma that journalism is intentionally made to be boring and uninteresting.

journalism New York Times newsroom
More traditional news outlets, such as the New York Times, have struggled to balance objective reporting with eye-catching material (Image via Medium)

In fact, many youths dispose of publications entirely, choosing to inform themselves on national or worldwide matters via social media. To be entirely frank, Twitter is as credible a source as The Washington Post to many college students, regardless of the radically different methods the outlets take to report on the same findings — the former tends to focus more on the public reaction to the given event — as familiarity plays a key factor in the individuals included in a publication’s audience.

While certain sources, such as VICE or Complex News, actively cater their content to a younger audience by remaining current, older and fewer hip outlets without a finger to the beating pulse of the youth find themselves without a foothold in the community, and despite their quality of reporting, commonly find themselves struggling for relevance.

On the other hand, while VICE and Complex are able to report in a fashion palatable to the millennial crowd, one could take the publications to task about the stories they decide to cover or the quality of their coverage overall.

In an environment rife with tabloids, yellow journalism — better known as “fake news” — and a tendency to lean toward opinionated reporting, it’s easy to envision journalists as individuals solely concerned with pushing agendas or generating enough clicks to earn the maximum amount of revenue with the minimum amount of effort or care for the consequences.

It’s difficult to argue to the contrary when articles about former FBI directors singing Beyoncé songs in briefings or pieces that declare Marvel movies are sexist due to the hairstyles of their female characters seem to make the rounds more than those reporting on political strife in Washington or domestic terrorism.

However, cynics must understand that these examples, as prominent as they might be, are the reason that modern journalism holds a higher accountability to deliver the impartial truth to its readers now more than any other point in history, and have reacted accordingly by promoting a return to form and ostracizing sensationalist news outlets.

When the minority acts out of turn, it reflects poorly on the whole. As such, when Buzzfeed is held in equal standing with The Times, the more divisive of the two captures the public eye and leads many to believe that all of journalism is headed on a direct course toward publishing disposable, trite nonsense instead of objective facts.

In light of the less credible, more opinionated voices added to the discourse, it’s easy to forget the value of respected, long-standing sources, such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, and their influence on how many individuals consume their news on a day-to-day basis.

Both publications consistently provide trustworthy, generally unbiased reports. Unfortunately, the journalists tasked with writing for such publications are frequently forced to compete with less credible, but flashier sites, while at the same time facing the same amount of scrutiny tossed at their peers, despite their differences.

As with any group, it’s unfair to judge the whole by a minority. While there’s certainly no lack of fake news and nonobjective reporting to be found on the internet, the world quite literally needs real journalism. Even if you include the endless sea of absurd op-eds and indulgent think pieces, the career retains a significant amount of value, not only out of necessity but also based on its social merit.

Regardless of the form it adopts, journalism and its respective publications possess the ability to drive the conversation, provide perspective and relay information to the most diverse audience imaginable. Regrettably, it’s a resource many, including myself, take for granted and come to appreciate only in retrospect.

Is journalism dead? In certain conventional respects it is, but the basis of relaying and promoting the truth that news reporting was initially built upon remains intact. While its face has changed with time, the facts remain the same: Journalism needs the world, and the world needs journalism.

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