The shaky and unsustainable business models, changing practices, the real or perceived threats from technology companies and everyone with a smartphone, and a lack of understanding of the changing news habits of the public are all factors slowly eating away at the news industry. But is journalism dead?
“Coming from the US, where I have recently been declared the enemy of the people by the president of the United States, it’s a weird time to be a journalist,” said Mark Joyella, journalist and contributor at Forbes, speaking at RTÉ’s Mojocon event in Ireland today (4 May), on the opening panel.
“Journalism is not dead, it is going through a life cycle change," Joyella said, comparing the current state of the media industry and news organisations’ reactions to it to a "wildfire".
“We panic when there are wildfires in the West,” he explained, adding that people spend resources to put out the wildfires and protect their homes. But wildfires can be nature’s way of removing old growth and creating new growth, he added.
“If you fight to stop it, you’ll make the problem worse down the road. Journalism is going through a wildfire but new growth is coming up – if you look around the ecosystem you will see shoots.”
These shoots emerging from the current ecosystem, the new media outlets experiencing growth, can be successful. But the arrogance of established media organisations and a strategy focused on maintaining the status quo could mean that not everyone will emerge from the “wildfire”.
Samantha Barry, head of social media and emerging media, CNN Worldwide, highlighted the death of the old news consumption habits, and explained there is still no shortage of newsroom executives clinging on to these dying practices and creating strategies around them.
At CNN, the strategic focus is to create “a CNN news habit for every generation, on every platform”.
Joyella also pointed out the way journalism is taught on many courses around the world, siloing students in specialised tracks based on a format such as print journalism or broadcast, is not preparing new journalists for being successful in the industry.
The current landscape creates opportunities, particularly for mobile journalists and for young reporters especially, to reach communities that are no longer served by a local media outlet.
“The opportunity is that your students can right now create journalism that is important, that has quality. You already have the gear, go out and find these stories. Find the Flint water crisis in your community.”
As part of a fellowship, Joyella has explored the possibility of covering these underserved areas by embedding a journalist in the community, but he was unsure whether the people there would be prepared to pay their salary.
Reflecting on his own news consumption habits, he noted that even as a journalist he struggles to spend more than necessary on journalism.
“I sit here and bemoan the fact that good journalism is struggling. I would pay extra for legroom on a plane without much question, but I really struggle with paying for a digital subscription for The New York Times. I actually ration out my 10 articles a month.”
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