By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha
The internet has democratised access to publishing tools, making it much easier for new entrants to join the news ecosystem, from blogs to new organisations like WikiLeaks, the Sunlight Foundation and the Huffington Post, none of which existed six years ago. And smartphones let people publish text, photos or video wherever they are.
That is not to say that everyone is now a journalist, but it means that the chances of something important being captured by somebody at the scene are much higher. All these developments provide new ways to do journalism, and can also improve the practice of journalism by making the activities of its practitioners more transparent.
Technology has redefined the space of news and information:
We can read whatever we want
Wherever and whenever we want
The tyranny of news media and traditional journalists is over. In 2005, one of the leading publishers Rupert Murdoch made this ominous state, “I BELIEVE too many of us editors and reporters are out of touch with our readers.”
The centuries-old profession of journalism is undergoing change so cataclysmic that it may soon be unrecognizable. Traditional, or “legacy,” journalism models are indeed in a state of decline.
Modern journalism exists due to a curious convergence of factors that trace their origins back to the beginning of the last century. We think the world needs journalism and journalists.
However, the days of relying god-like figures from above to tell us what’s important, presenting journalism as gospel are over. The model of traditional journalism which often regards readers as stupid is over.
The internet, by altering the underlying economics of the news business, has thinned the ranks of professional journalists. Has the net created other modes of reporting to fill the gap?
The very foundation of traditional journalists which relies on advertising is increasingly becoming obsolete, and a disaster is already beginning to happen to the profession of journalism as it has been traditionally practiced.
More than ever in human history, there are more people that can source information, assess, interpret, share and analyze. Put simply, journalism is no longer an exclusive practice. The tools of the trade are no longer an exclusive reality in today’s media environment.
Lets starts with a basic definition: journalism refers to the journaling of selected daily activities. What new media has done is to provide people with the tools to create their own content, they are doing that, and this is enabling an emerging global conversation
Traditionally, journalism was the preserve of a news or media house with a structure, system and style and the news house.
News media houses had preconceived objectives to package, report news, issues and people which they would sell to audiences or so called eye-balls.
However, in the beginning, journalism was practiced to inform people – it was a social good. But as a result of industrialization, an industry grew round journalism and enterprising business people emerged and built a business round the business of informing people.
Today, the power of the grip on the audience is being lost and now being replaced by the power of the audience. Now, people are easily sidestepping the traditional practice of journalism which relied on monopoly of knowledge and information and are becoming part and parcel of the creators of news and journalism themselves.
The exclusive professional role of the journalist is no longer tenable. In other words, the exclusivity of the role of collecting, analyzing, verifying and disseminating of information is now throroughly disperse d due to the power of new technologies.
Traditional journalisms was highly prohibitive in the costs of collecting and disseminating content as well as footing the costs of journalists but this is collapsing.
Moreso, traditional journalism was severly limited in diversity, variety and individualization but the new media has built a wide variety of choices for audiences.
In this respect, traditional journalism could never tell whether it engaged with its supposed audiences relying on things such as Letters to the Editor but the advent of new media platforms such as Facebook has largely shifted this dynamic. Today, the audience has become less predictable, and exists in real time presenting real challenges to traditional journalism.
Today, audiences can come up with their own analysis of news thereby upturning the fixated old presentation formats of traditional journalism.
Traditional journalism involved audiences in a miniscule way due to the limitations of space, time and resources.
The advent of citizen journalists, a complete no-no in traditional journalism, has also resulted in new perspectives. Because journalists cannot be everywhere, new media tools now give power to audiences to collect and share information anywhere and at anytime. Take, Syria or Egypt as an example.
While new media has been accused for the proliferation of ethical breaches, it is fact that ethcal breaches are not exclusive to the new journalism platforms. Take for example, former US Today’s Jack Kelley, who fabricated portinons of stories and plucked quotes from other newspapers. In addition, former Washington Post’s Janet Cooke, was forced to return the famed Pulitzer Prize for fabrication in 1981.
Ownership and commercial pressures largely influenced traditional journalism with journalists having very little room to maneuver. This in itself limited the breath and scope of content, the very essence of journalism.
Traditional journalism is no longer positioned to provide breaking news due to its snail pace. Stories of significance are now being broken on new platforms in ways that are far from the formats of traditional journalism.
What we are saying is that new platforms have refashioned traditional journalism to its very foundation, which is, simply, to communicate and exchange information.
According to the Pew Centre report 2010, in 2002 only 24 % of the people got their news online, 43% got it from radio and about 45% got it from reading the newspaper. But in less than a decade, the transformation has been tremendous. In 2010, 34% of the people got their news online, 34% on radio, 31% from newspapers and 44% on mobile.