The last ten years have posed a range of new challenges for the journalism industry and transformed newsrooms with new technologies.
As the decade comes to a close, Journalism.co.uk spoke to six experts from across the media industry about the good, the bad and the ugly events that have shaped our industry.
At the start of the decade, the journalism industry in Britain was rocked by the phone-hacking scandal, which resulted in the closure of the News of the World.
Will Gore, head of partnerships at NCTJ and the then director of external and public affairs for the defunct Press Complaints Commission (PCC), said that the fallout of the scandal has had an important impact on the industry.
"It was a helpful exercise in underpinning the notion of standards and ethics in the media, and the wrongdoing that went on eroding the relationship between the public and journalists, which reporters have had to work hard to win back."
Technology and social media
Smartphones have increasingly penetrated the newsrooms, especially as the quality of footage improved. They also allowed reporters to edit and post content on the go as well as live-stream, which has led to the rise of citizen journalism.
The rise of social media platforms has also fueled the development of new third-party tools to track news stories as they break, while new products allowed for auto-translation, data scraping and automated journalism.
Chief content officer at Culture Trip, Dmitry Shiskin, said: "Big data and machine learning help us to see trends quicker, they support scalability and offer new ways of reaching audiences. AI will do what we will ask it to do and that can only be a good thing."
To reach younger audiences and start building brand loyalty early on, some news organisations have taken to platforms, such as Instagram and even TikTok where more than half of the users are under 24.
However, social media platforms have posed new challenges for newsrooms as they became another tool for spreading mis- and disinformation.
Speaking of which, digital editor of First Draft Alastair Reid explained that although some social media platforms have taken steps to mitigate the spread of misleading news content, they could be taking more measures, including being more transparent about the data around misinformation.
"We need the information from the platforms about how and why this stuff is being spread and that will go a long way in helping people, including the platforms, understand it and then do something about it."
As revenue from advertising and printed newspaper sales declined by almost 50 per cent between 2007 and 2017, the UK media organisations were trying to find alternative revenue streams.
Some newspapers have experimented with paywalls, subscriptions and asking for donations from readers. The Independent was forced to become an online-only publication to ensure its survival; by the time the print edition ceased, it was selling under 40,000 copies a day nationally.
Gore, the then deputy managing editor at the Independent, said that although the print closure was sad, there is strong evidence that innovative, quality news brands can survive and thrive in the ultra-competitive digital world.
The slow-news startup Tortoise, which has implemented a membership model, used ‘Think-In’ session to shape editorial coverage of a range of national issues.
Polly Curtis, editor and partner at Tortoise Media, explained that models like theirs have allowed news organisations to move away from a climate of chasing clicks and focus on what makes them unique and what their values are.
"If the first half of this decade was about extraordinary digital growth, finding our digital feeds and going for reach, I think the last five years have been more about concentrating on quality over quantity and realising that advertising is not going to sustain the range of journalistic business models we have," she said.
Although there is currently no silver bullet to keeping newsrooms afloat, Gore believes that the diversification of revenue streams is key, with revenue from advertising, subscriptions, commercial tie-ins and sponsorships.
Representation and diversity
Curtis sees 2016 as a pivotal year for news organisations; with the election of Donald Trump in the United States and the result of Brexit referendum catching newsrooms off-guard, journalists have realised that they need to spend more time listening to what the public at large have to say.
Tortoise, for example, has made an effort to diversify its membership, including fundraising to pay the fee for groups that might not otherwise be able to afford it.
"We understand not everyone is going to pay £100 a year to be a member, but we also know that it is absolutely critical that we have a very diverse membership," she said.
Better representing and reaching certain minority groups and underserved communities can be greatly improved by bringing those voices into the newsroom and posting content where those audiences are.
"If you want to get 20-year-olds, empower 20-year-olds to tell stories and talk in their language," mobile journalist Glen Mulcahy said.
"Don’t try and get 56-year-old people to adapt the way they tell stories and talk to 20-year-olds - it’s a recipe for disaster."
The past few years have also seen several projects to empower minority groups and those from low-income backgrounds and the creation of newsroom schemes, such as the BBC’s 50/50 to transform gender representation at the public broadcaster.
However, founding editor of now-defunct women’s news site NewsMavens Zuzanna Ziomecka explained that improvements in gender representation vary greatly from country to country.
"I had the honour of speaking to the current editor of the Helsingin Sanomat talking about how her entire organisation is being run by women. But then I had a colleague from Italy saying they couldn’t think of a single news organisation that was led by women in their country."
She also explained that the abuse female reporters, in particular, face on social media and its mental health impact can put women off entering the industry in the future.
As the news industry is shrinking, smaller teams have to do more work faster. Often, poor management fails to look after and motivate the staff which has resulted at a higher rate of burnout than ever before, according to Ziomecka.
The increase in user-generated content has also brought about instances of vicarious trauma among those who were based on social media desks, unprepared and unsupported for graphic content they were exposed to.
"There have been a lot of lessons learned, but through making mistakes," Reid added.
Ziomecka suggested internal mentoring, as well as close contact with management and peers and safe spaces to discuss mental health as potential routes that could help with the issue. But newsrooms need to invest the time to help employees "deal with the mental fallout that has become part of the job.
"In terms of implementing safeguards or coping mechanisms regarding mental health and newsrooms, I think we are in the same place we were ten years ago in terms of understanding digital," she said.
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