Written by Aditi Shankar
There has always been a certain romance associated with the art of journalism. Writers thoroughly research and investigate matters and present these stories with the cold hard facts. TV anchors go behind-the-scenes and into the trenches to show their viewers the true happenings of the world around them.
The onslaught of time and technology has revolutionized the world of journalism. While major media conglomerates control most well-known publications and TV shows, the rise of alternative journalism seems to offer a complete dimension to the fourth estate. The variety of news options allows people to pick and choose the news they actually absorb. Markus Prior finds in “Media and Political Polarization” that “With greater media choice, individual content preference [has become] increasingly important in determining who would watch the news and who would abandon it. Without their inadvertent news exposure, entertainment fans lacked the occasional push to the polls. And because entertainment fans are less partisan, their dropping turnout rates led to more partisan elections.” Alternative media allows for a wider assortment of opinions, but also lets viewers only subscribe to one perspective.
Society is more mobile, active, and time-crunched than ever before. People often resort to social media or a variety of third-party websites to obtain the news. “I created a Twitter account because its the most efficient way to follow the news,” one Stern freshman comments. Twitter and Facebook allow users to skim through a variety of news sources in one database. This could, in fact, help the growing “choice in media” problem.
Organizations like Upworthy and Buzzfeed work to promote the news in any way, shape, or form. Upworthy frames itself as a news “curator”, only sharing the things that “matter”. Users of this website subscribe to Upworthy’s propaganda as pure truth — while Upworthy does share the cold hard facts, it only shares the facts of specific stories. Users are completely unaware of stories that don’t make the Upworthy cut. Buzzfeed takes on a community outlook — it “[wants] to be part of the conversation,” comments editor-in-chief Ben Smith. Yet, this community varies by article. Buzzfeed’s content only reaches the people it “should” reach. Thus, audiences vary by story.
The Pew Research Center’s Excellence in Journalism Project found that “Facebook and search are critical for bringing added eyeballs to individual stories, and they do so in droves. But the connection a news organization has with any individual coming to their website via search or Facebook seems quite limited.” The various social media platforms attract different demographics and facilitate news collection in different ways. Pew also found that “Twitter reaches just 16% of U.S. adults, but half (8% of U.S. adults) use it for news.” On the other hand, 64% of U.S. adults use Facebook, but less than half (30%) get news on the website.
Stern Professor Bruce Meyerson, ex-writer for BusinessWeek and the Associated Press, finds that the rise of the digital age of journalism allows consumers to avoid paying for the news. As news organizations lose profits, they are increasingly unable to pay for editors, or quality-controllers. The “battalion of editors” has become “expensive” — “the model has collapsed.” “The sanctity of good writers requires more than one person,” Meyerson comments. News organizations compete for efficiency more than quality.
With the rise of the blogosphere and social media, the common man can become a journalist. In a sense, this is quite comforting. While bias permeates alternative media and third-party news curation websites, the ultimate journalistic value of freedom of expression is upheld with great earnestness.