Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Journalism: The Information Business

Cameron Fields

Entertain, inform and enlighten--all of these are facets of good journalism. Since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in circa 1440, the public has had an almost obsessive desire for information.

Whether it's reading about the city council meeting or the local sports team defeating its rival, readers want to know what is happening in their communities. People naturally want to know what is happening in their communities, as being knowledgeable isn't just a desire for citizens--it's necessary to be a functional citizen in society.

Imagine being in a neighborhood watch group in which you have to be cognizant of a potential threat to the neighborhood. If others around you started talking about the threat, but you had no idea who they were talking about, wouldn't you feel embarrassed? That's exactly what it would feel like to not know about the news.

With the advent of the Internet, social media and other advanced technology, people have searched for information with even more vigor. Readers constantly want to be in the know. Push notifications are the lifeblood of sports fans and Google is the ultimate information highway.

Image result for journalists tweeting

With information perhaps overloading society, however, how do today's journalists distinguish themselves from citizens? Citizen journalism is becoming popular, with Twitter and Facebook enabling users to post videos and pictures of news-related events.

Journalists can still be distinguished from citizens--the lines aren't getting blurred between the two. Rather, journalists and citizens are coming together to produce information that is beneficial for all.

For example, CNN brought Marquis Gibson onto its show during the aftermath of the shooting deaths of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Gibson was an eyewitness, and he brought insight about what happened.

Citizens' more amplified roles in the journalism field is causing some people to believe journalism is a dying profession. This simply isn't true, though.

The relationship between journalist and citizen should not be adversarial. Journalists sometimes need citizens to give insight on news in their community, and citizens need information about their community in order to function as a democracy.

Though journalism shouldn't be regarded as a dying field, it has its issues. Journalism, by its very nature, is in the business of providing people information.

Further, journalism doesn't have a content problem--journalists are still creating good stories--but a distribution problem.

The modes of distribution are more abundant than ever before. Before the advent of this era's high technology, newspapers, television and radio were the primary--and really the only--ways people got their news.

Sure, they could have heard something over the phone from their neighbor, or even by word of mouth.

But they didn't have the Internet. They didn't have the best mode of communication since, well, the newspaper. The Internet is able to connect people who otherwise wouldn't be able to connect. Theoretically, I could tweet someone who  fsirom Canada--and I could likely get a response back.

People are connected more than ever before, but this doesn't mean journalism can't continue to do its job: provide information to the public and let them do the rest.

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