When I tell people I am studying journalism, I am often met with surprise and sarcasm. In their eyes, the importance of journalism and media is fleeting – because, in their eyes, journalism is synonymous with “fake news” and social media. This only feeds my passion more, however, because I know that strong journalism is more important now than it ever was.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that the world of media is changing rapidly, and that means I may be entering a field that behaves entirely different from what I expected when I declared my major a few years ago. That mystery – the idea that I will get to be a part of something new, something unique – is part of the reason I have stayed committed to this goal.
We cannot listen to people who say journalism is dead. Journalism is more alive than it has ever been and, without it, this world would look a lot different. In reading the Pew Research Center fact sheets on the “State of the News Media,” I gained a deeper understanding of how media is adapting.
One of the key things I noticed in the research was the rise in audio consumption. From the “Audio and Podcasting Fact Sheet,” the Pew Research Center states that “online radio and podcasting audiences have continued to grow over the past decade.” There is no disputing the fact that podcasts have truly taken over as one of the main information sources in today’s society. From breaking news, to crime, to romance, to self-help (and everything in-between), there are podcasts to match any listener’s taste. Major news outlets have also seized this opportunity with reporters starting their own podcasts and increasingly using audio to supplement stories. Online radio, too, has risen – especially as people access online radio from their phones. This increase in audio media consumption is one of the most notable, as most all other forms of media consumption are beginning to decline or barely holding steady.
Both podcasts and online radio are similar in that they can be consumed on-demand. This accessibility to information, at the click of a button, is one of the most significant attributes of today’s media. We live in a busy, multi-tasking world. The days of sitting down to read a newspaper are over. Instead, we want to be able to text our friends, answer emails, and navigate public transportation, all the while having news blast through our headphones.
According to the “Digital News Fact Sheet,” “In the U.S., roughly nine-in-ten adults (93%) get at least some news online (either via mobile or desktop).” As people consume their news online, there is a call for a system to help readers truly understand the material. With social media becoming a source of news for some people, the opportunity for misunderstanding, and the spread of misinformation, increases.
This is not the fault of the journalists, whose opinion stories are being labeled as fact; or the consumers who don’t think to dig beyond the surface level to seek out the truth. Rather, this is a side-effect of entering a new chapter in how media is consumed. The sooner someone can step up and find a way to label stories so the average reader can understand its nature, the closer we will get to restoring the reliability of journalism in the public eye.
I am proud to be a budding journalist preparing to enter this new landscape. As the demands of the public change, so must we adapt to the new challenges presented. Good, honest, unbiased journalism will always be important.
In the U.S., we are lucky to have freedom of the press built into the foundation of our democracy. Many parts of the world are not nearly this lucky. It is our job to fight to maintain this right – truth is power, and journalists are armed with the gift of explaining the truth to anyone willing to listen. I am proud to be pursuing a life in this new media landscape, and I see the changes as opportunity.
Without change we cannot innovate, and without innovation we will never move forward.