Journalists are a challenged lot! The increasing hunger for news and the scourge of paid and fake news seem to have pushed journalists to a point of no return. As Covid-19 continues to ravage the world, the sheer necessity of verified and credible journalism appears all the more important. However, as it is, the pandemic has had irreversible impact on the profession. While we all know how salaries have been cut and mass firings have been conducted across media organizations globally, it might be interesting to look at how the Coronavirus disaster has made some systemic changes to the profession. Forgive me for pointing out that some of these changes are extremely heartening and are here to stay. Without being overtly morbid, it might be interesting to look at how the fourth estate of the government stands to gain from the global tragedy, melancholy as it is:
- Increasing Trust in Journalists: For once, the netizens are trusting the actual journalists and not the social media. If we take a closer look at the media ecosystem, we shall be able to appreciate that over the past half a decade, institutional journalism had given way to social media in terms of news dissemination. However, for a change, people are realizing that only a journalist can provide him/ her with a verified piece of information. Therefore, there seems to be a renewed interest in information dished out by mainstream media organizations. As the social media continues to be a trash bin spreading rumours about the deadly disease, the media organizations seem to have done well for themselves.
- The Obvious Infusion of Technology: As the world continues to be locked down while the disease spreads like wildfire, journalists from across the world are increasingly banking on novel technologies for both collection and dissemination of information. The advent of the pandemic has acted as the right catalyst for journalists to instantly go digital. Earlier, news items that were produced based on just hearsay have been replaced by concrete multimedia content that can be verified by anyone and everyone. Multimedia news is dominating the news paradigm and audio-visual interviews seem to go with every story thus making it more credible. It is no clairvoyance to say that Mobile Journalism or MoJo would be the dominant force in the world of news.
- Journalists Have Understood the Primacy of Research: Interestingly, stories that are appearing these days are more nuanced and researched. Given the gravity of the current situation, any half-baked story can be disastrous. Hence, more and more journalists are coming up with detailed stories with multifaceted information. Journalists have understood the hard reality that the only way to survive in the current market scenario is to churn out stories that have the potential to make a difference. While it can’t be denied that the scene is also replete with stories that don’t do justice to the topic, it can’t also be denied that the sheer number of meaningful stories has also significantly increased.
- The Subscription Revenue Model Is Gaining in Prominence: As an increasing number of businesses continue to bleed amid the global economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, the revenue garnered by media organizations from advertisements is evidently on the wane. This has made organizations understand the importance of a subscription-based revenue model, where the consumers themselves pay for the news that they are consuming. This trend has a direct bearing on the quality of news being churned out. We all are aware of the basic news reality that advertisers have a significant say in editorial decisions. However, with an increasing number of organizations opting for the subscription-based model, editorial integrity and freedom would drastically increase.
- Rationalization in the Media Industry: While job and pay cuts can never be supported, the bare fact remains that the industry was set for a rationalization of sorts under any circumstances. The boom that was setting in the news industry was bound to bust at some point in time or the other. The Coronavirus scare has quickened the process and cut the news industry to the right size. The multiplicity of information, often from malafide sources, was significantly hampering the credibility of the profession. While the news industry has always been and will continue to remain a business, it possibly can’t be emphasized enough that the business has a public service angle as well. The springing up of spurious news organizations that were maligning the image of the news industry would be a thing of the past thanks to Covid-19.
- The Sudden Popularization of Data Journalism: While data journalism was gaining in prominence even before the onset of Coronavirus, the disease has pushed the practice to the next level altogether. Now, we are experiencing an increasing number of data-driven stories, not necessarily on the disease itself but on many other issues. Data significantly enhances the credibility of stories. As we irreversibly move towards a world dominated by multimedia, data-driven stories will constitute the biggest trend in the world of journalism. The sudden onset of Coronavirus has only quickened the process that had gained pace possibly over the past half a decade.
As we continue to wait for a viable vaccine to combat Covid-19, the world is changing for good and journalism is no exception. The fundamental question, though, remains unchanged. Would journalism survive the pandemic? It would suffice to say that the profession would not only survive but reemerge in a stronger and better avatar. As they say, time would constitute the biggest testimony.
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