Journalism has had plenty of critics over the years, but the most recent line is that the world no longer needs journalists.
One argument is that with the rise of the internet, everyone can share information and get access to anything they want to know.
There is more information accessible than ever before. But this doesn’t mean that journalists are no longer needed. On the contrary, they’re more useful than ever, in helping to make sense of masses of information, distilling and selecting material for audience consumption.
‘Media’ is the plural of the word ‘medium’, meaning ‘in the middle’. Journalists are in the middle, between the vast numbers of events occurring every minute, and the general public seeking knowledge and understanding. Their task is to choose what is most important, what is most relevant, and to find out what is really going on.
Some people say that the rise of social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, lets everyone become a journalist, gathering and distributing information to followers and friends. While of course, social media has changed the face of public communication, we’d all be pretty confused if we depended only on social media to find out what was happening.
Whenever a major event occurs – such as the Paris bombings – there is a flurry of social media activities as people share what they know. But a great deal of what flows out of this mass of information is exaggerated, distorted or outright wrong. Journalists are needed to get information from a range of sources – authorities as well as nowadays from social media – and to make sense of it all. Moreover, they do this very quickly, using the professional skills and experience from dealing with news every day.
Doomsayers also point to the reduction in size of newspapers and the shedding of staff by major print groups. It is true that many journalism positions have been lost as newspapers have come to terms with the internet revolution – revenues have fallen as advertising has gone to non-news areas. But recent research shows that journalism positions in Australia have in fact increased: ow.ly/URVeM
News organisations continue to need reporters to gather news and production staff to process the news into newspapers (print and online) and bulletins.
Journalism has been around for more than 400 years and I’m confident it will still be around in 400 more years.