Within the profession of journalism, and the overarching industry of media, restrictions on content are everywhere. Just in the united states alone, TV and radio has the FCC, film has the PMAA and even video games have the ESRB to monitor content as it's published and to establish guidelines for future media in development. But a possible exception to this widely popular trend is the digital superhighway and its John Milton "total freedom of expression" ideology.
The internet has risen to become a top source of information and news, and has become a massive competitor to the traditional forms of media. According to a study done by www.americanpressinstitute.org, the average american now checks media on four separate devices or technologies.
This wide spread availability of media is only further enhanced by the usage of smartphones. In the same study, it was found that 69 percent of all Americans use their smartphones for their news throughout the day.
All of this indicates an increase in activity in the form of media that inherently has fewer restrictions placed upon. This begs a question that's unique, and precarious, for current journalists that previous generations haven't had to experience: How much is a personal consciousness worth in the midst of so many outspoken opinions?
Reddit, a popular blogging site, is an example of the endless depth of knowledge accessible to the general public. It contains subreddits, such as r/funny and r/askscience, which filter content and discussions down to more specific topics. But the most widely viewed part of the site is the Front Page, which takes the most upvoted content from all subreddits and displays it for every Reddit user to see. Sometimes it's comedic but other times is highly professional news being shared.
Just This morning, on September 1st, 2016 at 1:56 am, the front page had a link to a scientific journal regarding a breakthrough in Alzheimer's studies. This isn't internet garbage, or fluff content meant only to entertain. This is journalism, and it's being shared and discussed in a way no other media outlet can offer.
It's still true that the internet has its own forms of censorship, as websites like Facebook and Twitter actively monitor their content. Even Reddit has moderators to ensure that the subreddits all stick to their niche topics, but it's undeniable that the internet is "The Wild West" of news and media, and can offer an unprecedented potential for our freedom of speech. So for the reporters, and the journalists, and the editors that have to continually struggle for the attention of the audience, they have to fight an uphill battle. And I don't believe that a journalist's personal consciousness is going to be enough anymore.
It's easy to say that "Journalists have an obligation to exercise their personal consciousness"as Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel said in their book The Elements of Journalism, and this belief certainly still stands true. But with the presence of so many people able to say exactly what they think or believe, the value of one journalist's opinion could easily be lost in the swell of voices. So what can journalists do? There may not be a clear cut answer to this, but one solution is to maintain credibility where others cannot. Redditors are almost always exclusively anonymous, so a journal's greatest strength is the public's faith in their information being accurate.
A journalist's consciousness might be there bread and butter when they must make decisions for their work, but it's not a step ladder to stand above the rest of the world. We as an industry must maintain an ethical responsibility to deliver a higher quality of news than all others, but cannot expect ethics alone to keep us afloat in this sea of media. Simply making noise won't grab viewership and having an opinion isn't enough for people to hear you, but that's just my opinion.