Where Do We Go From Here

Journalism is not going away. It is not dying and it is not losing it's power to inform the public. 

Journalism IS going through a lengthy period of change. The stories of substance have been diluted by a glut of online content and the litany of entertaining apps competing for our attention. Newsrooms are closing and talented journalists are losing their jobs, but journalism is NOT going away. The current business model, however, is dying, if not already dead.

News is a business. Media outlets--whether print or digital, television or radio--are top heavy corporations driven by profits. At it's core, there is nothing wrong with that. How else will reporters and photographers be paid? A sound business model is necessary for media to survive, but the current one is not working. 

The origins of journalism were seeded by town criers; individuals who would take to the streets and shout news to the people. Journalism became a voice of the subversives. It was about uniting the people through knowledge. It was used as a tool to hold the oligarchs to account; it was a tool that scared those in power.

But, just as journalism was used to bring attention to important issues and expose truth, it also became a tool for the elites to misinform and confuse the public. People learned how to control the message. They learned how to control the media and in many cases owned it.

We have come to a place where the public's trust in journalists is equal to their trust in a used-car salesman. In most media-developed countries, public relations professionals now outnumber journalists three to one. Any journalism that reports on controversial issues is easily branded as activism or biased and it's value is called into question.  

It hasn't helped that the new wave of online, so-called, news publications posting click-bait content and trending cat videos are making all media look bad. What's worse is the number of traditional publications who have followed suit. It is about the clicks, it is about the money. And this is why it is not working.

The goal of a business is to remain profitable. This often means delivering a product that appeals to the masses. For whatever reason, I still don't understand it, the masses seem attracted to the click-bait, flashy content that is often devoid of any substance. But if you ask an average consumer of this content, they will quickly complain about the poor quality of journalism. Media consumers want better. Journalists, not media corporations, have an opportunity to capitalize on this. 

As much as the Internet has disrupted traditional media, it has also re-democratized journalism. It has given the town criers a voice again. It has, for better or worse, given everyone a platform to spread their message and inform the public.

Journalists need to get off their asses, abandon the traditional publications and jobs, and advocate for themselves. They need to use all the tools the Internet and technology have provided to create content that is flashy and exciting for the masses, but it must also inform. They need to create their own publications and different ways of publishing stories. Journalists need to explore other ways to fund their work. 

There is no single answer for how to accomplish these things. It is an extremely tough road ahead and unless a person can afford the financial ups and downs another career might be best. But most never wanted to be a journalist for the money.  

So, where do we go from here? We begin producing more great content delivered in a spectacular fashion. We produce it on our terms, with integrity and fairness, and without the influence of corporate ownership. We don't give up on what journalism should be. 

I recently listened to two podcasts related to this post by journalists far more qualified than I. I highly recommend them as both away to understand and become inspired. 

The News Is Dead So What Comes Next?
- A conversation with Ian Gill on Canadaland

Imprisoned By Profit: Media & Democracy

- A conversation with alagummi Sainath on CBC's Ideas