OPINION: Is Journalism Dying?

Throughout the day, we observe an infestation of notifications on our phones, from a ding about Trump’s tweet to a ping of a Facebook birthday notification from someone you hated in high school. Nevertheless, we are constantly surrounded by news. But we are also observing a common trend of newspaper closings, fake news, and a threat to journalism as a whole. Journalism seems to be a dying industry when in fact, it’s a necessity needing to be saved because it serves as a watchdog, marketplace, mirror and provides information to self-govern citizens.

Growing up, my old kitchen table was filled with numerous newspaper subscriptions to satisfy the six people in the house. There was The New York Times for my dad and sister, the Cincinnati Enquirer for my mom, sports for my brothers, and comics for my elementary school self. Today, the new kitchen counter seems to be a little bit emptier. But what is even emptier is the newsroom.

In the 1900s, New York City had a surplus of newspapers with 17 daily newspapers. One of these newspapers was the New York Daily News who sold more than a million papers a day in 1925 and sold about 5 million on Sundays in 1947. But this past summer, this publication laid off nearly half of their newsroom staff. This is an example of one of the many publications closing, adding to the decline in journalism. According to the Pew Research Center, the newsroom employment has dropped 23 percent between 2008 and 2017.

Much of these losses are due to the drop-in print advertising revenue. According to The Washington Post, print advertising has shrank, which was a financial stream for newspapers. In the 19th century advertising made up half of newspapers’ revenue. Today, it is below half. This causes a price increase for paper subscriptions. And no one wants to pay more.  Along with that, The Plain Dealer, an Ohio newspaper, let go 12 newsroom employees and plan to cut 29 more workers in May. George Rodrigue, an editor of The Plain Dealer, said, “Since around 2001, newspaper advertising revenue has been plummeting.”

Now, this is obviously causing a worry not only for journalists but those avid news readers/subscribers. But don’t worry! We have our screens for this. Introducing... *drum roll, please* the digital media age! 

Today, we see that journalism is not limited to only newspapers. There’s been a shift from papers to screen, like many things today. We can read or listen to our news with just our phone screens. In fact, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal are reaching a high of digital subscribers as of 2018.

Between 2006 to 2012, the number of working American journalists lost 17,000 jobs. The reason being that newspapers struggle to keep up with this platform shift to screens. In addition to that, ad revenue makes up a large percentage of newspaper funding. But those funding advertisers aren’t blind to this change in technology. They also see how many absorbing their information from a screen rather than a paper, and obviously, don’t want to spend money on an ad where not as many will see it.

Now let's talk about "fake news." We laugh as we hear our president scream it out in order to save his a** on something that wasn’t intended to out in the media, although it is the truth. Or for me personally, boil over in rage when your best friends’ and brothers’ high school, Covington Catholic, is accused of being homophobic, racist and receiving death threats across the nation when the media based a more than 15-minute video on only 30 seconds of it. “Fake news” seems to have become a phenomenon that viewers can’t get enough of, despite the reaction.

But in today’s society, there seems to be two different types of this news. The first one goes by the definition of this term. The term is defined as untrue reports that appear to be news that spread throughout the media, which is usually made for political influence or humor. For example, Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was killed, there were many different accusations as to why he would have been killed. WikiLeaks proprietor Julian Assange said to a Dutch radio show that Rich was involved in the D.N.C hack that was tied to Russia. And then, Roger Stone, a political consultant, claimed that Rich was killed by the Clintons to cover up evidence. The media failed to fact-check this and all of this false information was published in the media and taken as truth by citizens.

But the second one creates chaos on social media as it drives the media and journalism from what its purpose is. This is when the media shows a person or an event in a false light, like the Covington Catholic incident. The media originally published a 30-second video showing Nick Sandmann, a CCH student, “blocking” Nathan Phillips, a Native American. This caused an eruption of many people, including public figures, to lash out, insulting a bunch of high school underclassmen. But within 48 hours of this happening, a full video was released showing the insults ordinally being thrown to the boys by black Hebrew Israelites. The video then showed Phillips approaching Sandmann while beating a drum and singing. This released video caused many media sites to go back on their word. As the original video showed Sandmann blocking the man, the student stated “I never interacted with this protestor. I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me.” With these two being released, the whole situation was a shift of focus from a “white privileged” high school to a media problem. The media made the mistake in not only portraying minors in a false light but also not gathering all the proper information of the situation before releasing anything. This incident is an example of the portrayal of someone in a false light, falling into the second kind of fake news. 

Adding all these things up like ad revenue, technology advancement and fake news, you get a recipe for the dying industry of journalism! But that is not at all to be served at a family dinner or to welcome a new neighbor. This recipe is bitter and most likely will cause a lot of troubling side effects, including our democracy. A main purpose of journalism is to provide information to citizens in order for them to be able to self-govern themselves, thus, allowing a democracy. You can specifically see this reality in the voting turnouts in recent years. According to NPR, less than half of eligible voters came to the booth to vote in the 2010, 2014, or 2016 presidential elections.

Journalism shapes how our country works today. It is what got our presidents elected. It’s what allows us to know what is happening behind closed doors. Without it, the basis of the first amendment would be stripped away, and we would all be walking around blindly. Without it, we would be limited to facts in a textbook and morals by our parents. Journalism allows you to logically develop an opinion and test your world views. But guess what? This highly important industry is dying with an infestation of false sources and personal takes on being taken as news, newspaper closings and the general lack of interest people have in the world today.

I’m 19, and I assume whoever is reading this is pretty close in my age. So hello, my name is Cassidy and we have more in common than you think. We are both apart of the generation that’s always “wasting our time” on our phones, but we are also supposed to clean up the shit show the previous generations made, with all due respect. It’s our job to realize the importance of journalism because realizing this would be realizing the importance of democracy. And the death of true journalism would be the death of true democracy.