The Future that Journalism Holds
Journalism continues to evolve at the same rate as the country’s interpretations of the First Amendment. Because of the continual advances in technology around the world, society must question the state of journalism, and whether or not its older principles are still applicable to modern standards. As Stephen J.A. Ward highlights in his article Digital Media Ethics: “Most of the principles were developed over the past century, originating in the construction of professional, objective ethics for mass commercial newspapers in the late 19th century. Technology and innovation can only move forward from today. In the year 2050, I believe journalism will retain its basic principles, be enhanced by newer technologies, and create more opportunities for everyday people dedicated to providing a voice for others through their reporting.
The journalism I see in 2050 still should retain the basic principles of media ethics. The four codes of ethics created by the Society of Professional Journalists are to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable. These codes should always apply to journalism no matter how far in the future society lands. Regardless of how journalism changes, it should also retain the meaning of news. Standard news has always been factual stories of legitimate public concern. Ward questions: “Is it good, that more and more, journalists no longer stand among the opposing groups in society and try to inform the public fairly about their perspectives but rather become part of the groups seeking to influence public opinion (2)? This question made me think of today’s current issue of how to discern fact from falsity. In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that 44 percent of U.S. adults were getting their news from Facebook. At this time, during the height of the presidential race, Buzzfeed found that thirty-eight percent of the posts on three major conservative pages contained false and misleading information, whereas nineteen percent of the posts on three major liberal pages contained false and misleading information as well. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects a person’s right to express their beliefs freely, but when such beliefs are presented or offered in the realm of journalism, it can be lacking of facts to support it, and yet people will see it and possibly believe it to be factual. This is an immediate danger to the distribution of news, as explained by Matt Murray, the current editor-in-chief for the Wall Street Journal:
We have a real risk in our society in the days and years ahead of losing touch with what the truth is. I don’t say that self-righteously as if journalists have a license on the truth. Think about fake video, propaganda and AI and where those things are going, and the data available on us. Figuring out what’s true is going to be harder. That is a threat to all of us I really think the threat is great enough to society that journalists have to get it right. Journalism has to do its bit. (University of Pennsylvania)
Murray placed an emphasis on the technologies that are affecting the way true journalism is perceived by modern society. I see technology as something that can be managed properly and used to benefit journalism if we take advantage of the immediacy of news while still being fair and accurate. Ward expands on an ideal journalism reflecting these values through layered journalism: Layered journalism brings together different forms of journalism and different types of journalists to produce a multimedia offering of professional-styled news and analysis combined with citizen journalism and interactive chat (2).
With growing technology and reliance on social media, the news that journalists provide can be published in an instant and seen by many people. Ward, however, brings up that the concept of online journalism can be associated with post-publication corrections and partiality. I like Ward’s idea of layered journalism and think it will be enacted in 2050 with the help of moderators. Of course, the First Amendment still protects the views of every person regardless of how they are perceived by the majority, but the interactive chat that Ward speaks of should be looked at and checked to be factual. Another requirement of layered journalism should include the transparency of online journalism. Stephanie Mehta, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, further expands on this suggestion to newer journalists:
We expect transparency from other organizations, but when I talk to people, they don’t know how we do our jobs. They don’t understand that a writer doesn’t just write something and put it in a magazine or newspaper or online. We need to do a better job of explaining to the public that we have checks and balances, like fact checkers, more than one person seeing a story, or even lawyers checking it. (University of Pennsylvania)
This increase in need for journalism opens doors of opportunity for many people. Citizen journalism is already on the rise, with everyday people sending in photos and videos to news outlets, which in turn helps them produce professional news with evidence to support. The idea of citizens providing news and statements to producers of layered news can work in 2050; it helps people include work on their resumes and portfolios. It also helps provide pay to people in need who further understands the basic principles of journalism and is able to help put together stories of public concern.
The future of journalism should rest upon those who wish to abide by the power of truth, and it should let the facts be the most important factor in a person’s decision on what to do with it. The journalism I see must continue to be fair and accurate, or it can never be called journalism.