The digital age has brought about a number of huge changes in journalism, both positive and negative ones.
The internet is quickly becoming a key constitutive element of contemporary newsrooms. An example of this can be read in Ofcom’s 2007 New News, Future News report where it is noted that “within the last decade, web-based operations have come to be viewed as essential for newspapers.”
One of the key developments is the sheer space and speed of the Internet. This expands geographical research and opens up new possibilities for news presentations that can be displayed in innovative and interesting ways. This, however, brings us to the first disadvantage — the pressure to release and update stories before the usual checks for journalistic integrity have taken place. Placing greater value on speed of reporting rather than accuracy and verification of facts diminished rather than enhances ethical Journalism practice.
Online journalism has also lead to the emergence of multiple platforms of Journalism, such as participatory and citizen Journalism. These are all driven in practice by “the desire to provide news, information, comment and analysis to specific, identified communities defined in geographic or socio-cultural terms.” (Journalism Across Cultures, L. Obijofor & F. Hanusch) Some believe this is a positive enhancement of democracy, however, others put into question the lack of accountability and anonymity online, introducing concerns of certification, accountability and accuracy. Elliot King, in his book Key Readings in Journalism, fears that “with the proliferation of citizen media […] the distinction between professional news gathering and amateur news gathering is becoming blurred.”
Technical changes in Journalism are also generating ethical issues. Competition for younger and more technologically proficient audiences may be drawing traditional print media to adopt more business-focused approaches to news. This means Journalists are likely to lose their independence and the ability to make ethical decisions while gathering and reporting.
Journalists are also suffering from reduced investments as ultimately “every mainstream newspaper has gone online but none to date have managed to make it a consistently profitable enterprise” (Natalie Fenton, 2009). As a consequence, Journalists are resorting to cheaper forms of news gathering, abandoning the original, expensive, time-consuming, in-depth Journalism that came before the digital age. They are also relying heavily on web-based information without cross-checking and verifying facts, leading to cannibalisation of copy and homogenisation.
Image: Taken from Student World Online