Not since the Gutenberg Press has journalism experienced so many changes. In my school district, I am the only teacher who runs a newspaper journalism program. The dirty rumor: journalism is dead.
Not so. In fact, to the trained eye, journalism is expanding and developing in ways that no one could have imagined ten years ago. The face is different, the tools are different, but media is alive a well. What is different is the way we see it. The fact of the matter is that journalism has been democratized. The cheap and easy access to digital media tools had knocked down barriers that may have prevented the average person from entering the news room and making their voices heard. Twenty years ago, an op-ed piece was the average person’s only hope of breaking into mainstream media, even if it meant being buried in the corner of a page with a tiny byline. That era I gone.
The modes of creating and publishing news are easily accessible to everyone. A few clicks on a Mac or PC put video creation and editing software right at the finger types of the average consumer. Students can pull out their phones and record video, dictate text, and publish to any web forum that they choose. The wait time between creation and distribution is gone.
By the democratizing the media ecosystem, the amount of content being produced and the ‘creators’ has been diversified. This has also diminished the value of being about to produce content. It is time to rethink the traditional norms that have defined media and open up a dialogue about the new reinterpretation of what professional communication looks like.
Objective Journalism, the idea of unbiased reporting, was the foundation of journalism in the Industrial Age. The one textbook that I have in my classroom seems to build much of its content around this premise. Sadly, Objective Journalism, as a genre of media, does not exist anymore. It doesn’t take much introspection to see that. Fox news boasts a slogan of “fair and balanced”, playing to the old concept of objective journalism. In reality, they offer a clear falsehood in that depiction. Fox is not alone in its false sense of objective journalism. Numerous other print, online, and broadcast media engines are just as guilty.
The shifts in communication demand a high level of media literacy. Just like schools teach financial literacy, they should and need to introduce media literacy. Understanding how media is structured requires active consumption on the part of all consumers. This is particularly true for students that want to actively shape and take part in the communication of these ideas. As teachers of not just journalism, but communication, we must shift how we teach students about communication.
Students must become well versed in how to effectively create the news that is shaping our word now. The investigative journalist of the past is gone. The new media constraints dictate something very different, with a much stronger and diverse skill set.