Controversies about issues like journalistic objectivity and fairness continue to rage in a world where press freedom is constantly under threat and even non-existent in some countries, where newspapers are drastically downsizing, due to web journalism being on the rise, taking many forms to shape what we call journalism today. Real questions remain about whether it can really uphold its standards and replace newspapers.
Among the pieces of conventional wisdom that get trotted out whenever the subject of the newspaper industry’s decline comes up, one of the most popular is that the internet is the main culprit: in some cases, it’s the entire internet, and in some cases it’s specific web services like Craigslist. But while the democratization of distribution and the atomization of content have definitely accelerated the decline, journalism professor George Brock argues that newspapers have been on a slippery slope for some time, and that what journalism is going through is a natural evolution rather than a disaster.
Brock — who runs the journalism program at City University in London, England — makes these points in a book he recently published, but also laid some of them out in a blog post entitled “Spike the gloom — journalism has a bright future.” Everyone has a favourite example of the decline of the industry, he says, such as the sale of the Boston Globe for 97 percent less than it sold for two decades ago or the massive rounds of layoffs that continue to sweep through the business.
It’s certainly easy to find that kind of evidence of doom, but I think Brock is right when he argues that “this picture of deterioration is one-dimensional, incomplete and out of date,” and that journalism is flourishing if you know where to look.
In many ways, Brock’s arguments are similar to those advanced by Business Insider founder Henry Blodget in a post about how we are in a “golden age for journalism” — a phrase that Arianna Huffington has also used a number of times to describe the innovation that is occurring in online media. Even New York Timesmedia critic David Carr described the current environment that way during a Q & A last year in Toronto, saying Twitter and other forms of citizen journalism are having a largely positive impact, despite their flaws.