News is the grease that oils the wheels of society, pollinates communities and strives to keep the powerful honest. News informs debates, empowers progress and is essential for justice.
Traditionally, journalism is the profession primed to find and broadcast the news. With the advent of technology, the news landscape has suffered seismic changes. Internet provides platform for the purveyance of news — fake or otherwise — all at lightning speed.
Social media is a force multiplier, facilitating the chaotic and indiscriminate spread of information. We are fed torrents of trash with only a tincture of truth. Filtering the facts from the half-truths is an onerous task, one that journalists and media live to do.
In the social media era, the traditional tenets of journalism are being eroded. When the society is awash with unfettered information, widespread misinformation is not just a possibility but a minute-by-minute reality. This has understandably bred public scepticism, not sure what to trust and what to trash.
In fact, the World Economic Forum has identified the rapid spread of misinformation as one of the top 10 perils in society, alongside cybercrime and climate change.
Journalists and their media houses must therefore up their game; search the truth and hard facts that the man on the street would not be able to find by himself. The hard facts and uncomfortable truth would be a breath of fresh air, a product that people would be willing to pay for.
Understandably, getting such news is costly, hard work and sometimes a treacherous affair. But media houses are experiencing a hit financially, weakening their resource base. The subscription and advertising revenues — the lifeline of media houses — are on a decline.
In the light of these realities, media houses need to re-imagine journalism. The attention to read long stories is waning. Many media houses are attempting to combat diminishing reader interest by shortening stories, adding commentary, and using social media to entice readers to read main stories in print, website or other outlets.
In their quest for sound stories, intrepid journalists will often step on peoples’ toes and rub others the wrong way. They therefore need logistical, legal, financial backing and ongoing training.
In the years ahead, flexibility and a willingness to experiment with new methods will likely be the factors that determine whether a newspaper survives or falters.
But make no mistake: we haven’t seen the last chapter of the traditional media. Traditional news outlets will continue to adapt by leveraging digital, mobile and social media platforms. For example, they break major news online and through social media apps, thereby funnelling readers to their websites.
In countries where readers have not yet come full circle in embracing mobile and digital technology, print media will continue to play pivotal role in the fluid digital age of journalism.