The death knell for traditional journalism began as early as 2007 when pundits began declaring that “journalism is not dead but newspapers are dying.” Then in 2013, a reporter for the Washington Post came out with her declaration that, “Obama is wrong. Traditional journalism isn’t dead.” In 2014, comedian and actor Jon Stewart very publicly declared that the “Internet has killed newspapers.” Also that year, another headline surfaced that stated, “Newspapers are dead; long-live journalism.”
The fact is, journalism, including newspapers, magazines and their broadcast counterparts, are no longer what they once were: the sole gatekeepers of information and audience. Looking back, you could say that the public was held hostage by traditional journalism in that the only information we read or heard about was what print and broadcast news organizations deemed as news. If you didn’t read about it in the newspapers or hear about it on television or radio, it didn’t exist (it’s kind of like the old philosophical question we were all asked to ponder during our early school years: if a tree falls in the woods but you don’t hear it, does it make a sound?)
Traditional journalism has now been replaced by a new, competing digital age, including the internet and a handful of social media sites. This isn’t a bad thing. After all, isn’t competition the cornerstone of capitalism?
From a PR practitioner’s perspective, the best thing about digital journalism is that a brand can now assume the role of reporter and tell its own stories and news in a way that engages its audience. This is probably one of the biggest advantages of digital journalism, in addition to the fact that you are now communicating with a much larger audience than ever before. The Internet provides an organization with easy access to readers and viewers around the world, which is something most companies, particularly health IT start-ups, could never afford to do via traditional means such as print or broadcast advertising.
If you look at the user base of some of the most popular social media sites, the numbers are staggering. As of 2014:
- Facebook hosted 1.35 billion monthly users
- Twitter had 288 million active users
- Instagram held 75 million daily users and 300 million monthly
- Tumblr averaged 420 million users overall
And these numbers are probably larger today.
It’s no wonder that journalists have begun using social websites to build followers to aggregate and post news stories. And, most journalists would probably agree that the internet and social media make them much more efficient by helping them keep tabs on several leads at once and find details they wouldn’t have found or been able to cover otherwise.
Another benefit of digital journalism is that citizens can become journalists. News reporting has become interactive as readers now have the ability to participate in news coverage on both a local and national scale. By aggregating stories on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, local stories become national stories in hours rather than days or weeks. And videos and photographs add depth to the print content they accompany, which builds a deeper connection with the reader that printed content alone cannot do.
As all of us take on the self-appointed role of journalist however, whether we have a degree from J-school or not, we have a responsibility to what is true and real. The downside of digital journalism is exactly what the upside of traditional journalism has always been: the need for accuracy (fact-checking) and sources. Digital journalism can also breed inaccurate reporting and a “it’s good enough” mentality because deadlines are instantaneous.
Overall though, the benefits of the internet and social media are huge for today’s marketers. As we look ahead to 2016, digital and social will play an even greater role in how we communicate with each other, regardless of the message. With this great opportunity should come a commitment from all to “use responsibly.”