The Golden age of Journalism ? Or……….. The Twilight Age of Journalism ?
On the Sunday Edition (CBC) for June 22 2014, Michael Enright interviewed James Compton . Compton teaches Information and Media Studies at Western University in London, Ontario, and is the co-author, with Paul Benedetti , of a recent article called The Golden Age of Journalism? You’ve Got To Be Kidding.
The core ideas that are explored in the article and interview are related to both the basic Mass Media Principles of Target Audience and Business Interest. The essential observation that Compton and Benedetti are making is that, in the current age of Digital Media, professional journalism is being required to set criteria based on the business needs of the publisher, rather than the higher goals of journalism. The criteria that is used is based on the model of Digital Media. The journalist must produce articles (content) that attracts hits and moves the viewer to other related information (content).
Articles & information are not necessarily news – nor do they have to be in-depth analysis of events and current social/political conditions. Brevity and clicks out weigh careful lengthy analytical reporting. In such an environment, emotional connections and human needs govern the newsworthiness & appeal of a topic or an event. As in advertising, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs govern the shape and delivery of the message (content).
Of even greater concern, according to the essayists, is the present business model of online journalism leads to fewer and fewer working for less and less – crowd sourcing and volunteerism/internship generating cheap quick content becomes the norm.
Obviously there has always been a tension between publisher’s business interests and investigative journalism’s goals of truth and analysis.The essayists point out that present Digital Mass Media delivery systems and related technology increases that tension, offering few opportunities for an alternative model to arise.
Technological change has always driven journalism – the expression “hot off the presses “ is not just an old movie cliché.
As Social Media and the ubiquitous digital devices makes news gathering and transmission faster and faster, expectations for gathering and holding the market share of the target audience becomes crucial. The Globe & Mail has taken an interesting approach – Seek out a very specific target audience to make their “upscale” magazine quality newsprint affordable.
The publisher, Phillip Crawley, delivered these comments at the World Publishing Expo(Oct. 8, 2013) in Berlin – “We are really only interested in readers who earn more than $100,000,” . Create a high-end fashion, life style, business oriented publication that can feature high-end products in glossy full-page advertisement. Not exactly Canada’s National newspaper anymore.
New approaches need to be found to bring the journalism into the 21st century, but will it still be journalism ?