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Paradox: The Death Of Western Journalism…

When we analyze journalism in 2009, we often separate it into three categories: Print, Television, and Internet. It is too early, while at the same time, too far gone to tell which method is more effective at bringing you, the layperson, actual factual, informative, need-to-know news.

For the longest time, print and television media had been in a steady neck-and-neck tie, arguably, for journalistic supremacy. Each had their place and it was duly noted by the general public.
The average businessman (or woman) would start their day with a hot cup of coffee, a warm shower, and a fresh copy of the local newspaper. The average person would also watch the morning news for the abridged telling of the day”™s news, but the paper was where it was at for long-form reporting that would present a larger picture of the story and leave the reader with an often smug satisfaction that they now knew more than their peers.

When night came and those same businessmen (and women) came home from a hard days work, their brains had become mental calluses: bombarded by the millions of sensory trials and reactions that massage the human psyche on a day-to-day basis. In simpler terms: They were ready for the evening news.

Yes, the evening news; where tough, grounded men brought you stories about tough, grounded issues. Issues that, had they not been processed by the likes of Cronkite and Brinkly and fed to Americans like a bird to their young, would surely cause the average person to go insane. This was the time of Watergate, the Civil Rights Movement, and Vietnam. This was not a time for beating around the bush.

On the contrary to today”™s landscape where 24-hour news cycles muddle opinion into straight-news, the newspaper industry is sinking worse than the Titanic and the evening news seems to coddle the viewer more often than it enlightens them.

One can argue that the blame for all of these things can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the internet: a tool so precise yet vague, so noble yet so vile, so right in it”™s convictions yet so flawed in it”™s execution. It”™s the single most-beautiful invention of our time; It is also the deadliest. The power of the internet allows a single person to gain fame and acclaim to the degree of such Olympian heights and then quickly have their identity murdered, the body of which torn to shreds, defecated upon, excommunicated from “civilized” society, and then buried in a sea of memes and footnotes inhabiting a digital archive that can, arguably, never be destroyed. All of this happening in a matter of hours, frankly, even minutes.

I will forego the rest of the intricate reasons why the internet is so grand because, really, you already know them; In essence, because you use them every single day.

The brass tax here is the fact that those same businessmen (and women) who woke-up 20 years ago reading newspapers and ending their day with the evening news are now “scanning” the news instead of reading it. Using sites like Google News to get the grand overview of everything they need to know.

Most people assume that if it is popular enough to make the rounds on Google News, it must be important. This, for the majority, is probably true. We can never truly tell, but one should be able to assume that if enough people are paying attention to a story, it must have some merit.

The problem lies wherein people are no longer being fed the important news that they need to hear in a digestible fashion. Instead they are left to their own devices and their personal choices end up raising the hit-count of any particular story, often enough to make it Google News-worthy. Once that happens we have situations where a scandal involving David Letterman having sex with staffers is easily usurping the Iraq War in the headlines.

This, in turn, has a trickle-down effect. The television news shows and print media see the internet trends and what is a hot story getting attention, and decide to pander to that audience for ratings. A recent example is the Michael Jackson funeral. A story that, while certainly news-worthy, was covered with more importance than Ted Kennedy”™s funeral.

Thus the circle comes back to today. The fact of the matter is that there will always be a percentage of the population that will know where to find good, honest news. But that percentage isn”™t enough to keep newspapers and even major TV news divisions afloat. The internet is still relatively new, yet it”™s impact has already been massive. It”™s too far gone for traditional newspapers and news shows to catch up to the instantaneous nature of the internet, but it is also too early to see what direction these now-archaic outlets will move in and transform into in order to still be contenders or even surpass the internet.

What do you call something that is about to die and be born at the same time? A Paradox.

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Vin Forte

Vin Forte

I'm the only person on this site that actually went to college for Journalism. Needless to say, I'm not putting that knowledge to the best of uses.