Lizzie Roberts takes a look at the state of online journalism.
The debate over print journalism going into decline has been building steadily for a number of years; papers have been losing readerships and circulation numbers with the continuing increase of online content. When asked what I want to do after university my response of “I want to be a journalist” is usually met with “oh that’s tough,” “isn’t it in decline?” and “good luck with that one.” But the decline in print journalism isn’t really what worries me.
Inevitably newspaper sales are going to wane as the majority of readers view the news on their tablets or mobiles. That doesn’t necessarily mean journalism as a profession should be going into decline. Blogs, comment pieces and social media accounts of newspapers and magazines are becoming more and more popular. Many credible outlets continue to produce cutting edge pieces, breaking news and excellent opinion pieces online, such as The Guardian, The Independent and of course Despatch Box. But others have become obsessed with “click happy” stories, better known as clickbait, endless list articles and taking content from other sites.
The Daily Mail and BuzzFeed are two outlets who continually churn out endless stories you would normally read in a tea break magazine rather than a news source. For example, “10 horrifying photos of fruits without their peel” from BuzzFeed or “Is this the rudest tourist map in Britain? Bizarre new guide for visitors to picturesque town is shaped like a giant penis” from The Daily Mail. Is this really the state of 21st Century journalism?
Clickbait stories with these peculiar headlines are intended to generate thousands of views on their sites, in turn generating advertising revenue. Often, these sensationalist headlines are barely even related to the article, but just aim at drawing in readers in who then surf the website generating more money.
Some sites are clearly struggling to source these bizarre stories themselves and many of the bigger publications can be seen taking their stories from smaller sites, almost word for word, and creating a catchier headline. Not only this, but they are also blatantly gathering a large amount of their content from sites such as Facebook and Reddit an entertainment, social networking and forum site.
I see a picture, story or video posted on Reddit and then see it on the Daily Mail, Buzzfeed and many more other sites just a few hours later with a padded out article alongside. Is it really news to tell us about a picture we can already view on the internet ourselves?
It’s not that I’m a fun sponge; I love a funny picture of a pug in a knitted hat as much as the next person. However with more people reading about a £60m cat with a grumpy face than the crises in Iraq, Syria or Gaza it makes me wonder how much the internet is contributing to the demise of the journalism altogether, not just the print press.
That’s not to say the web can’t do amazing things for journalism, take for example the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. The world took to twitter to ensure the events in the area were broadcast internationally when the media were restricted from doing so themselves. It’s important to keep supporting news like this on the internet, rather than circulating pointless stories such as “an ugly man marrying above his weight.”
I think it would be a good step for the papers to move fully online, not just for the obvious environmental benefits, but it keeps the news fast flowing and accessible for everyone. Though I worry the flare, originality and concept of journalism itself is being slightly lost in amongst the endless BuzzFeed lists, stolen Reddit content and sensationalist stories produced just for the clicks.
By Lizzie Roberts
[Image Credit: Newspapers B&W 5 – Jon S]