Jane Wagner

State of the News Media

It should come as no surprise that the news media is drastically changing. It should be expected that the media will adapt to cater to the next generation’s needs and wants. The transition from print media to mobile platforms has been mislabeled as the “death of journalism.” I like to think of it simply as the next chapter.

If an individual is looking at a news site, they are likely to spend double the amount of time reading on a desktop than on a mobile device. This fact is interesting, but makes perfect sense. Personally, I hate reading long articles on my phone because it puts too much strain on my eyes. However, I’m much more likely to read a longer feature piece from start to finish if I’m sitting at my computer. It is almost as if my attention span shrinks as I move from my larger computer to a smaller tablet or smartphone.

Journalists have had to learn how to both write for print and write for online; in the near future, I see learning to write for mobile will be an entirely new skill we need to acquire. Mobile readers, for the most part, are skimmers. Journalists will have to write even tighter, only conveying the most important facts in a story written for mobile, where there is more wiggle room for creativity in stories written for desktop or print platforms.

The social media takeover has also drastically reshaped the industry. I go on Facebook and see ridiculous, obviously not credible, articles being reposted by adults that I would expect to have a much higher intelligence level than their profile hints at. In a world where anyone can post anything, it is increasingly important for journalists and news organizations to gain the trust of their readers, or else the industry as a whole will lose credibility.

The algorithms used by sites like Facebook promote content based on the friends you associate with online. If you have a diverse online community that you’re a part of, you’re much more likely to find a wide variety of viewpoints and sources as you scroll down your newsfeed. However, if the majority of your friends are conservative Republicans, you probably won’t see much content coming from liberal or independent sources.

News organizations will have to look at who their user base is and analyze how to penetrate into more of the online world that their content isn’t being shared across. Overall, social media has definitely had more ups than downs for news media. A wider variety of people are being exposed to news without having to look for it. That news may be catered specifically to their beliefs and ideals, which in the long term may lead to a less diversely-informed society overall.

It will be interesting to see if this way of delivering news will lead to more polarization between groups and parties, or give way to more people exploring viewpoints that differ from their own. — Jane Wagner


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