When the history of 21st century is scripted, its first two decades will be marked as the period that transformed the very meaning of human existence. The unbelievable surge of digital technologies and the advent of the internet-based virtual world have been instrumental in reimagining humanity that we know or at least claim to know. Every area of human knowledge stands radically changed. Skills that were once considered a handful have rapidly become useless. No wonder that the larger domain of journalism has also undergone fundamental and structural changes.
Print has given way to the all-encompassing web; analog broadcasting has given way to digital broadcasting and plain text have given way to multimedia. With the gradual decline in the average attention span of news consumers, contemporary news can no longer afford to just inform. Infotainment has become the name of the game and interactive infographics have slowly started replacing the once dominant text information. While the first decade of the ongoing millennium was revolutionary for journalism and journalists on multiple counts, its second decade has changed the very approach of journalism. The coming in of the ubiquitous smartphone has heralded a brand new era in the practice of dissemination of information.
This article, albeit very limited in its scope, would make an effort to document the larger changes that has marked journalism and its various offshoots over the past one decade. Just so that one is clear, all these changes that we are referring to are not necessarily desirable. However, like everything else in life, journalism has also altered – for the better and also for the worse. For the purpose of easier comprehension, let us put some of those changes in the form of pointers:
1. The Predominance of Online Journalism: If the first decade of the new millennium belonged to television journalism, the second decade most surely belonged to online journalism. While the popularity of print journalism continued to dwindle, online journalism kept on growing. The liberal usage of multimedia and easier language made online journalism the hot favourite among both the millennials and members of the Generation Z. All existing studies and surveys predict the further growth of online media to the extent that it will be the only thing in the fray.
2. The Arrival of Social Media Journalism: Before delving into the trend, it is important to point out that social media and journalism are two different concepts and are not intrinsically connected to each other. However, the rapid increase in the usage of social media and the instant need for news somehow contributed to the growth of a new phenomenon known as social media journalism. Today, breaking news items break on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook pages serve as platforms for larger discussions on recent trends. Today, anybody from any corner of the world can post a piece of news for the rest of the world to see. It can be argued that social media journalism has largely democratized the flow of information.
3. The Growing Relevance of Alternative Media: There was a time when large corporate entities and media behemoths had absolute control on the collection, production and dissemination of news. However, thanks to the largely economical nature of the online medium, a good number of smaller and independent news ventures are cropping. While some of these media organizations have already broken even, there are many that are making rapid inroads into the larger news ecosystem. Consequently, geographical locations that were once considered fringe are increasingly featuring in the mainstream. Larger corporates have lost their monopoly on news.
4. The Ominous Entry of Fake News and Post-Truth: Thanks to Donald Trump, the former President of the United State of America, the world was informed about an essentially oxymoronic term called fake news. For the purpose of academical
propriety, we would rather use the three individual terms ‘disinformation’, ‘misinformation’ and ‘mal-information’. All these are different types of misleading or false information that owe their origins to a multitude of reasons including ignorance, propaganda and unholy political ambitions. While not entirely different, the term ‘post-truth’ probably has a wider ramification on the very sustenance of press as the fourth estate of democracy. Post-truth represents a dystopian scenario where emotions and personal convictions become stronger tools in shaping public opinions than objective facts. This phenomenon indicates a general disdain for logic and common sense.
5. The Increased Popularity of Infographics: The current generation has a general liking for representative visuals. Therefore, infographics serve as a potent tool to retain the consumers of news. To put it in simple terms, infographics are charts, visual data and statistics that help people digest complex information in a systematic and uncomplicated manner. We have come to a point when different news organizations report stories only through infographics. In the next few years, this trend is only going to grow.
6. The Gradual Vanishing of Gatekeeping: For all those who are not aware of what gatekeeping is, it is the process of filtering information before publishing. With blogs, vlogs, social media and personal websites slowly becoming the primary mode of disseminating news, gatekeeping as a phenomenon is increasingly losing its relevance. While this has democratized the flow of news to a large extent, news credibility and authenticity have become sore areas. It is expected that as we move ahead, a mechanism will be worked out that will impart balance to the whole process of journalism.
7. Mobile Journalism Is the Next Big Thing: Journalists across the world are increasingly using smartphones to gather, produce and disseminate news. In fact, mobile journalism or MoJo, as it is popularly known, has become so powerful that it is predicted that in the next one decade, journalism will be primary mobile.
8. News Virality: What was once called breaking news during the heydays of the broadcast revolution is now known as viral news. Some news become viral and gather a significant number of eyeballs in a very small span of time. In fact, the greatest mechanism to make a story viral is to put it on social media platforms.
While the points mentions above are rather generic and broadly define the transformation that marks the news industry, there are many others that are equally important, if not more.
However, for the purpose of brevity, we shall discuss the same some other day. Just in case you find this blog useful and relevant, please make it a point to share it with as many people as you like for them to know the changes that have engulfed the world of journalism.