Has the Internet helped or harmed journalism?

As technology continues to develop, more and more people are consuming their news online every day, meaning that the internet has become an invaluable tool for journalists. Both broadcasting and print companies are now focussing much more on their online content in order to stay a float, and keep up with the likes of bloggers and social networking sites, which have become very relevant in the world of news. Like with most changes there are both positive and negative implications, and the internet has certainly helped journalism, but it could also be argued that to some extent it has harmed it.

There are a number of positive implications that the internet has had on journalism, for one it provides mass distribution of content, meaning news companies can reach a much larger and diverse audience. Another key benefit of the internet is the ability to update news fast and the web design can be updated instantly without destroying content. The internet has allowed journalists to be able to break news to the public just after an event has happened, giving the phrase ‘breaking news’ a lot more credibility. Journalists are often now armed with smartphones, digital tablets and other handheld equipment, enabling them to capture images, video footage and audio a whole lot easier and upload it from their device straight to the internet. Social network applications on smartphones have also allowed journalists to ‘tweet’ on the go, meaning consumers can get updates as they happen.

The internet has also opened up the door for audience interaction, as people are able to leave comments at the end of news articles online, often sparking further debates. Of course audience interaction isn’t a new thing as previously readers would send letters to newspaper editors, or phone into television stations, but the process has certainly become much more speedy – a simple click of the mouse on a Facebook ‘like’ button, under a post, can show your opinion. Most news companies, whether print or broadcast actively use social networking sites where they can send short snippets of information out, refer them to their websites, and interact with their readers.

As previously mentioned social networking has become one of the biggest things to hit the world of news and journalism. There has been an increasing rise in citizen journalism, with members of the public constantly tweeting, updating their status or writing their blogs. This of course means a lot more competition for journalists in paid positions. On many occasions news is now breaking on social networking sites before journalists have even had the time to report it, whether this be in newspapers, television, radio or even on on their websites. Many celebrities now opt to break their own news on Twitter straight to their followers, to prevent journalists from getting their exclusive stories. The rise in citizen journalism has raised a number of questions such as whether we still need ‘real’ journalists? And it has even been questioned whether news articles are relevant today.

There’s no hiding that newspaper sales are still decreasing and that many companies are considering saving costs by not printing them, and instead moving news content online. Even university students on Print Journalism courses are being taught how to use broadcasting equipment to make them more versatile and appealing to employers in the future, when perhaps newspapers may be a rare thing. Since the costs cuts were made in the news industry many of the surviving journalists have had to become multi-skilled, learning how to video record, edit and publish their own reports.

Another issue with online journalism – for news companies – is the fact that the news is free for consumers to read. Many companies have considered charging for their online content, with the Times and the Sunday Times owned by News International taking it a step further and actually implementing charges on their websites in June 2010.

So has the internet and the availability of ‘free’ news caused more harm than good to the industry? Some would argue yes, as the rise in citizen journalism, social networking, and other online journalism runs the risk of cutting back on print journalist jobs. I personally believe a little competition never hurt anyone.

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