Journalism is moving online, not dying


By Matt Silich

At the end of my freshman year at the University, I made a difficult but necessary decision to change my major. The act alone isn’t uncommon; plenty of students at every university change their major, sometimes multiple times before graduation.

However, I’d venture to say that few made a change as drastic as I did when I moved from Industrial Engineering to News-Editorial Journalism, and every time I’ve discussed my career path adjustment thereafter, I’ve heard a familiar refrain.

According to most people, the practice of journalism is dying. Countless people have advised me to consider other career options because they’ve read the stories about newspapers cutting staff sizes across the globe.

There’s no denying that newspapers are struggling to deal with a new generation of media consumers.

USA Today, one of the more widely circulated papers, cut over 50 jobs in September 2014 alone. In May, the San Diego Union-Tribune fired nearly a third of its roughly 600 employees.–san-diego-newspaper/ (fm)

Many papers are fighting decreases in print advertising and slightly lower circulation numbers than in the past. The Pew Research Center reported that print advertising revenue was down to $16.1 billion in 2014; in 2005, print advertising revenue peaked at $47.4 billion. (fm)

But as much fun as it would be for some people to exist in a world without the media coverage they claim to hate, this widespread belief that journalism is on a steep decline across all platforms doesn’t have much logical weight to it. Journalism is not dying; it’s just changing.

The decline of newspaper advertising revenue certainly does not indicate the death of an entire industry. People haven’t just canceled their newspaper subscriptions and subsequently stopped reading news stories altogether.

Millennials have grown up concurrently with the rise of the Internet. As our generation enters adulthood, we’re beginning to crave news and are going online to find it in lieu of picking up newspapers. We understand more than anyone else the changing climate of how people access their news.

Journalism, like plenty of other professions in the world, is adjusting to the relatively new culture of online media consumption.

Newspapers will always have a place in journalism because of the localized coverage they provide, but national news seems to be headed towards a largely digital future.

Consider BuzzFeed, one of several prime examples of the metamorphosed media companies of the future. When it began, BuzzFeed was a small company that primarily focused on creating viral content for the web. Its staff looked for shareable images or videos, compiled them into list articles now known more commonly as listicles and attempted to rake in page views by any means necessary.

BuzzFeed became wildly popular for young web users such as college students, who shared these trivial articles on their social media network of choice. I hated it.

It’s certainly a bit curmudgeonly to dislike posts like, “29 Photos Of Puppies That Will Change The Way 90’s Kids Think About One Direction’s Nutella Song.” But I was frustrated by the lack of journalistic standards on BuzzFeed’s behalf — as a huge part of digital media, it poorly represented the field by relying on some inexperienced writers who resorted to plagiarism and rarely sourced their articles. (fm)

I worried that this website, and others similar to it like the Huffington Post and Upworthy, were going to become the kings of online journalism and leave responsible, professional writers by the wayside.

But as BuzzFeed has grown, it has begun engaging in some reporting that rivals what one might see at a big city newspaper. BuzzFeed has used the massive ad revenue and clicks it gets from those shameless listicles to help fund real journalism.

And this isn’t a strategy exclusive to BuzzFeed. SB Nation produces a ton of viral sports-related content, but also has an entire section of its website devoted to long form journalism.

Vox has its fair share of attention-grabbing headlines, but also puts together extensive pieces dissecting current political events. ESPN’s Grantland boasts frequent podcasts and videos as well as in-depth analyses of the latest sports and entertainment news.

Digital media companies are appealing to the new generation’s lust for brief, shareable content in all sorts of fun ways. Then, they use the revenue gained from those posts to help provide more traditional investigative and analytical articles.

These websites all have faults, but each is also doing something not really seen before in journalism. Instead of being dismissed as unprofessional or biased compared to newspapers, it’s worth considering the possibility that these unique websites are the future of media. Their success would certainly seem to support that claim.

Citing the exaggerated decline of newspapers while bemoaning the loss of esteemed journalism ignores the significant advances made in online journalism over the past several

Matt is a junior in Media.

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