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How to Save the Dying Art of Journalism

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Over the past few years, the credentials and notoriety that journalists, and journalism itself, has began to struggle, lacking the trust and notoriety it previously had. While watching the news, reading the paper, or even browsing on social media, it’s easy to question whether facts were kept out or stories intentionally changed. The public’s trust and viewership of journalism has been at a low and it’s time to take action and find a way to reverse the damage that has been done.

Ranked within America’s top dying industries, journalism seems to be locked behind bars with no parole in sight. However, there might just be some hope. The key to opening the bars and bringing more credence and attention to journalism isn’t within opinionated debates and ruined reputations, but right in front of anchors’ faces. It is hidden within the camera.  

With news mostly targeted to keeping the older generation interested, it’s easy for the younger generation to feel underrepresented and ignored. Thus, one should not be thinking of how to keep the older generation interested in the news (they are already the most common watchers, averaging at 89%) but instead the younger viewers. After all, once the elderly news watchers are gone, who is to replace them if Gen Z and younger don’t have interest in the news? To save this “dying” industry, the answer is to efficiently use videos and photos. 

Despite the media having the role of providing the information, research, and analysis of news to enrich the public, many have fallen to going directly to a government or health officials page to be informed.

“I just want to know the truth and get it fast,” said sophomore Isabella Nevin. “I don’t want to have to question things and then have to go to another news source just to make sure it checks out. The extra work I have to do just to make sure something is credible is annoying and makes me lose interest. I usually just try to read things right from the source.”

Although Nevin is an avid news reader, a worryingly small average (59%) of those aged 18-29 are attentive to the news.

“It’s hard to watch or read something when it’s long,” said sophomore Rachael Humble. “I usually just go onto Instagram or Twitter because they have little summary videos or photos that I can watch or read.” 

So, the lack of attention to the news in the younger generations isn’t just the question of credibility, but also the question of a person’s attention span. In a recent study by the Digital Information World, the attention span of an average human is now shorter than a goldfish, starting at 12 seconds in 2000 and then lowering to 8 seconds by 2019. The average attention span of a goldfish is thought to be about 9 seconds. The reason? Easy distractions and lack of interest. 

When watching a movie, what usually captures the viewer’s eye? The colors, movements, and fast pace of the film. When the movie gets boring, that’s usually when the viewer’s attention begins to slip. So how does this fit with journalism? Well, if those reasons were incorporated into the news, it becomes evident how. 

Compared to the historic low of only 32% trust ratings in 2016, trust ratings in 2019 have only gone up 9% since 2016, fluctuating between 41% and 42%. In the so-called “Trump era”, investigative journalism, print, digital and broadcast media have all been thrown into the cauldron of “false news”, creating a climate of wariness. Thus, photographs, known for their ability to transcend lies and force the image of reality, becomes the power source for news. As the popular saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Leaving little to dispute, a photograph shows what is happening, creating the image and story that the viewer is forced to accept. Along with a photojournalist’s strict Code of Ethics one must follow, in fear of being ridiculed and/or scorned, it’s easy for journalists to lean on photos to back up their articles. It’s not just photojournalism that fits into the puzzle. It’s also video-journalism. While photos are standstills of the scene, video documentaries, albeit short or long, provide many of the same things photojournalists do: an unedited, undisturbed shoot of what they’re reporting on. 

Some of the strongest mementos of history are found within photos and videos. The chilling photos of the Holocaust highlighted the horrors of Concentration Camps, bringing forth something that no words could describe, forcing the reality of human cruelty. The photo of a starving woman, named the Migrant Mother, helped to humanize the Great Depression. And the video of George Floyd being killed by Derek Chauvin sparked riots and protests throughout the country, igniting another historical Black Lives Matter movement and bringing to light corruption in law enforcement. The unedited, raw footage of the videos and photos are what sticks to peoples minds, spread awareness, and make an impact. Powerful videos and photos are what create movements and opinions. They help to educate. While shorter attention spans usually means the ability too easily forget, powerful videos and photos ensure that won’t happen. 

However, the transparency a photo or video reveals is not the only important factor they hold. It also holds the ability to hold one’s attention. While reading articles online, it’s easy to drift over sentences of entire paragraphs, or just to skip an article entirely due to the length. Photos and videos, much like the movies mentioned earlier, bring people into the moment, capturing their attention due to both the ease of understanding and the vibrancy of it. While portrait photography usually shows a set up scene, photo and video journalism captures the moment as it is, providing a snapshot of the action while it is in action. Life is shown as it is, something that not many articles can capture through words. Creating strong emotions, it is easier for the viewer to become more affected personally to what they are reading/viewing. 

On social media, most of the time, instead of articles being posted, it is instead videos or photos telling the news. And with younger generations being the most common users of social media, it is important to effectively use photos and videos on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, to draw in the attention of Gen Z and Millenials. 

Many videos or photos of groundbreaking news, such as the Paris attacks, led to an increase of 22% in viewers of video news, according to the BBC. The large increase was shocking due to it being normally only 10% on a day-to-day basis. Despite breaking news usually getting the most video views, some individual videos of smaller news still got somewhere between 77-100 million views. On the world-famous app, Tik Tok, newspaper companies such as Washington Post have utilized the popular platform to not only report current events, but to also get other viewers interested in news itself. With nearly 900,000 followers, the Washington Post has clearly used video to its advantage. 

In spite of the seemingly easy solution, there is another problem that has to be faced. Photo and video journalism both face major declines in job offerings within the fields. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is to be an estimated 6% decline in jobs for photographers in general by 2028; and for Video-Journalists, there is to be an estimated 10.1% drop in jobs. Yet,  by incorporating a larger photo and video platform within the field of journalism, not only will it save one dying industry, but two. Once there is evidence of more viewers due to the inclusion of visuals, there’ll also be more openings for more jobs, thus not only saving the photo/video-journalism industry, but also journalism as a whole will. 

However, the answer to save journalism is not to make it solely of visuals. It’s important to incorporate visuals and writing. Despite visuals already being used in journalism, the power of the two arts should be better embraced and more commonly used. To help the “dying” art of journalism, the answer is to bring in more “life”. Reporters need to embrace the usage of new technology and show credibility to battle against the claims of fabrication. Photos and videos both embrace the new age of technology, while also providing primary insight, creating a solidarity of truth, along with ensuring future readers by acknowledging shorter attention spans. 

If a photo alone can tell thousands of words, why not join photos, videos, and the art of journalism to tell millions? 

Kyley Fishman (she/her/hers) is a sophomore International Studies major, with minors in Public Relations and Journalism at the University of San Francisco. She is head editor for USFCAHC. Kyley is a native of Colorado, meaning she is constantly outside hiking, wandering around the city, or soaking up the sun. She can usually be found looking for the newest local bookstore, trying the newest lavender coffee, or going out with friends.