News used to be simple: we read it in the paper, heard it on the radio or saw it on TV. Now, it emanates from all angles. Traditional mass media outlets are replaced, or at least complemented, by websites and blogs, some operated by one or two people, others operated by whole teams, but most of which offer news both for free and, most importantly, faster. It’s no longer necessary to wait by the newsagent’s door until he arrives with the bundles of papers in hand. Our news is not neatly packaged into the rectangular confines of the newspaper page, nor the few minutes afforded on radio or TV. It is packaged how we want it.
With the arrival of the internet, news changed shaped, grew swifter. Now, it’s essentially instant. Within seconds, an image can be uploaded, and viewed by people on the other side of the world. In some cases, celebrities have uploaded comments or photos, then removed these within seconds. In most cases, such momentary hesitation proves futile. While the presence of cameras in modern society might recall George Orwell’s 1984, the variety and the great number of multiple inputs that feed modern media are very much the opposite.
The citizens of the world may now determine what constitutes news, whether it be something trivial or something important. In the latter case, certain news organisations may be influenced by political affiliations, and so may choose not to report certain news, or to present it in a biased manner. Citizen journalism, of course, avoids this. After all, how could thousands of bloggers across the world be persuaded to follow a particular line for political or monetary reasons? Although this form of news delivery supports many of journalism’s traditional principles, such as the freedom of expression and transparency, the communication revolution has allowed many citizen journalists to deliver information directly, by escaping the traditional gatekeepers. Because everyone is connected, all at once, no-one assumes charge or, more importantly, responsibility. False information can spread, such as the relatively recent fabrication involving a terrorist attack on the White House. Essentially, citizen journalism has called into question the reliability of news sources.
Of course, some still appreciate the art of the journalist. Maybe this is where the future survival of traditional journalism lies. In a similar way that book publishers claim to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, in relation to self-publishing and traditional publishing, newspaper journalists may choose to be associated with the selection process, and thus with quality and reliability. Only then decisive appreciation for their work and skill may observed. The death of paper itself may be impossible to avoid, due to matters of economics and convenience, but that’s a different issue. No matter what is the future for public attitudes towards journalism by bloggers and journalism by journalists, and whether people are prepared to pay for their news, it is likely that, when reference will be made to a story “breaking”, we will be probably referring to information transmitted via social networking websites. Fully formed news articles will only be able to follow in their wake.
– Natasha Ibanez, FT MBA 2012/13