State of the Media: Legacy media journalists are pessimistic


The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has published its annual study about the future of journalism. The 2009 version of The State of the Media report focuses on the role the Internet has played in the changes within the profession.image

The study concludes that online journalists and bloggers have an optimistic view about the future of their profession. These contributors see the Internet and new technologies as an opportunity to try new ways of doing their jobs. The ‘Net is also seen as a useful tool for improving performance with existing tasks.

On the contrary, print and “old media” journalists are more pessimistic. They accuse the Internet and the “new media revolution” of having a negative impact on what they say are “fundamental journalistic values”.

Among those detrimental effects, they cite loosening of standards (45 percent), increased emphasis on speed (25 percent) and the addition of voices (often not professional) in the media mix (31 percent).

I refuse to consider being up-to-date and sharing my voice with other people as a “detriment of values”.

On the contrary. Engaging in healthy discussions populated both by news professionals and laypeople facilitates the emergence of truthful storytelling. It ignites new discussions and inquires about the effects on all stakeholders.

Regarding the up-to-date factor: I can’t see how this can be a negative aspect of online media. Being up-to-date in giving the facts doesn’t exclude the possibility for the reporter to write, later on, an in-depth article brimming with thoughtful insights and comments.

Moreover, citizen journalism has often proved to be the only way to be in the know when an event occurs. Consider the London Underground bombings or the Tsunami in southern Asia. In the early phases of a crisis, user-generated content is the only way to understand what’s happening.

I may also consider the “loosening of standards” something that’s not imputable to new media. The ethics are the same in new and old media. There are unprofessional and biased journalists writing for popular newspaper and magazines as well as for new mediums. But it is more likely for a biased or incorrect article to be exposed online than in a printed newspaper. Such are the benefits of two-way communications.

Another interesting fact from the study: More than 60 percent of online media professionals said they are currently making a profit from their work. The primary and most important source of revenues is, without surprise, advertising. Ads are predicted to remain the most important revenue stream for the next three years.

The future of journalism is clearly online. The figures prove this shift. And while online media outlets are able to sell advertising, print ad revenue is falling faster than anyone expected. Popular magazines are forced to print reduced editions. Newspapers are shutting down or publishing exclusively online.

This doesn’t mean that new media is journalists’ Klondike, though. Its business model is far from clearly defined.

But, surely online is the place to be experimenting with new models.