Traditional media has received what most scholars describe as a ‘blow’ with the advent of social media (Franklin, 2016. p. 487). The print media, newsrooms among other forms of traditional media, no longer enjoy the monopoly of news sources. Presently, it is possible to follow up live events using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, without switching on one’s television. It is important that the traditional media adjust and aligns with the online media in order that they remain relevant. This essay will discuss the impact of online and mobile media on journalism. In its discussion, the essay will mention case studies to highlight on how online media has impacted journalism.
The Impact of Online and Mobile Media on Journalism
Offers checks and balances to mainstream media
Traditional media, where journalism falls, has the role of keeping in check the various arms of government and ensuring accountability (Papacharissi, 2014. p.28). Journalism brings to the attention of the public on the happenings of the day, in the fields of business, sports, politics, and all matters important to civilization. Importantly, journalism enlightens masses on the happenings in the government, especially with regard to policy formation, projects and their funding, accountability of the various government departments, to mention just a few. As such, journalism has to practice high integrity and deliver accurate content to the masses. There are however, instances where journalism can be compromised, making the editors to coin editorials to conceal some facts. This practice is common in young democracies where influential leaders tend to buy media to sell their agenda. Unfortunately, journalism no longer controls the monopoly of news sources. Online and mobile media play the role of checking journalism (Papacharissi, 2014. p.29). It is almost impossible to publish a story that conceals facts. In the present time, the masses are already aware of the story even before the journalists bring it forth. The online media platform often shares live events and by the time journalists bring the stories on air, the masses are already aware. As such, the online media plays the role of checks and balances to journalism.
As a case study, when the presidential elections of the US were held and the front runners were the incumbent Trump and former Secretary Hillary, once the final tally was out, online media burst out with congratulatory messages even before the official announcement was made(Papacharissi, 2014. p.31). This is to say, it was the news were already in the public domain making it impossible for the print media to announce otherwise. This case study confirms that online media plays checks on journalism.
Increased professionalism for journalists
Journalism has the duty of bringing to light, verified, authenticated news to the public. Journalists ought to verify the news before disseminating it to public (Steensen, 2011. p. 315). Online media may be good at breaking out news which traditional mainstream media may shy away from publishing, however, it has the disadvantage of the possibility of circulating fake news. It is therefore, the duty of journalists to remain professional and verify the source of news before they can circulate it. This is to say that another impact of online media to journalism is that it has increased the professionalism of journalists by requiring them to dig deeper, verify the news, before they can report the news.
Increased freedom for journalists
The online media has offered journalists a platform where they can articulate their issues at length, something that was not fashionable with the traditional mainstream media. Traditionally, journalists would have very little to contribute on print media like newspapers since it is very expensive to do so. A newspaper has a recommended size and pages, and therefore finding space to publish say a story, a finding, means an advertisement would have to be foregone and that is loss of revenue. As such, the journalist often had little to add to the print media, and this hampered their connection with the public. However, with the online media, things are different and for the better. Journalists can create a page, invite masses to follow them on the page and blog on their findings (Steensen, 2011. p. 313). This has given them freedom to express their findings, share their opinion on different matters and generally increased their freedom of expression.
Change of tact from news-breaking to news verification
Traditionally, it was journalists who had the monopoly of releasing breaking news to the masses (Franklin, 2016. p. 488). They were the first to learn of an event and break the news to the public. However, the online media platforms inform the news even before media houses learn of the news. This has impacted journalism in that they have shifted from the role of news-breaking and have taken up the role of news verification. The journalists will task themselves with verifying news and having an in-depth understanding of the news before they can share the same with the public. Therefore, online media has impacted journalism by changing their role from news-breakers to news-verifiers.
Reduced revenue for mainstream media
The impacts of online media on journalism are not all positives, there are negative impacts as well. With the advent of online media, the print media is no longer best sellers. In the present days, companies create their Facebook pages for example, invite followers from their market, and from these pages they sensitize on their products, new developments, etc. This was a traditional role for the newspapers, and one role that used to generate substantial revenue for mainstream media. The role has since been overtaken by the online media and has reduced significantly the revenue that was meant for mainstream media (Steensen, 2011. p. 311) With reduced revenue, mainstream media has had to trim down the number of their staff, and even scale down the magazines and newspapers they used to print. Therefore, online media has impacted journalism, in that few journalists are recruited presently, owing to the reduced revenue by the media houses.
As a case study, a leading airways, Qatar Airways, used to publish information on print media for their clients on any changes in ticket prices, new fly destinations, etc. and it was a revenue source for mainstream media (Steensen, 2011. p. 312). However, with the coming of online media platform, such information is widely spread through their twitter handle, meaning the print media is bypassed. Consequently, revenue bypasses the print media and like any other business, trimming of staff is done so that profit or break-evening may be realized.
Online media has the advantage of instantaneity (Franklin, 2016. p. 489). Like mentioned before, it is possible to disseminate information to the public using online platforms once it happens even before the mainstream media broadcasts it. This ability of online media comes with its risk. It is possible for news to trend and appear to be authentic only to be discovered later that the news were in fact a hoax. For instance, it is possible for a person with malice intentions to coin a given audio, give it a caption and release it on online media platforms. Such an audio clip will be shared and within a short time spread and the public may regard it as a truth. Journalists especially those on social media platforms may amplify the trending topic without verification and give such an authenticity. However, after careful verification it may turn out that whatever was in circulation was only meant to dupe the public. This is to say that online media has impacted journalism negatively since it brings about the concept of misinformation and unless journalists stick to the ethics and code of conduct, they may end up victims of misinforming the public.
From the discussion, it is evident that online and mobile media has a significant impact on journalism that cannot be wished away. In fact, most media houses have incorporated online media in their operations in order that they remain relevant. On the positive side of it, online media has made journalism to exercise professionalism in their roles by exercising more verification to given news before they can trend it further. Also, journalists have gotten the platform of sharing their opinion on different matters through blogging, an opportunity which was expensive to acquire with the traditional print media. However, one short-coming with the online media with regard to journalism is that it has led to significant revenue reduction by media houses. Online media is a cheaper platform for advertisement as compared to print media (Steensen, 2011. p. 313). Consequently, with reduced income, most media houses have reduced the number of journalists they hire, and this impacts journalism negatively.
Franklin, B. (2016). The Future of Journalism. Digital Journalism, 4(7), 481-499. doi:10.1080/21670811.2016.1197638
Papacharissi, Z. (2014). Toward New Journalism(s). Journalism Studies, 16(1), 27-40. doi:10.1080/1461670x.2014.890328
Steensen, S. (2011). Online Journalism And The Promises Of New Technology. Journalism Studies, 12(3), 311-327. doi:10.1080/1461670x.2010.501151