“Print is dead.” “Journalism is a dying field.” “It’s all fake news anyway.”
These are a few of the things I was told repeatedly when I decided to pursue a career as a journalist.
However, journalism is not a dying field and it’s not “fake news;” journalism is essential to our democracy and has great value. In a democratic country like the United States, it is important that we’re all educated about the elected officials, policies and current events that affect us all, and journalism is the method by which we do this.
As a journalism major, I have heard many professors and professionals in the field discuss the importance of journalism, and I am here to pass on some of this information to you. It’s time to correct some of the misconceptions of journalistic news.
The negative interpretations of journalism are often misplaced and therefore need to be altered. This topic is especially relevant right now because well-done journalism is often dismissed as being “fake news,” and journalism is often viewed as being a dying field.
Connie Schultz, writer, journalist and adjunct professor in Kent State University’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication, says about journalistic news: “If it’s news, it isn’t fake. If it’s fake, it isn’t news.” In other words, there’s actually no such thing as news that is fake. However, the term “fake news” has been around for a while, and it is more common than ever to hear it as President Trump often dismisses reputable news sources as “fake news.” So what is fake news?
Fake news has existed for years. According to Time magazine, the next dictionary.com update will include “fake news” and define it as is false news stories created to be widely shared online for the ad revenue that heavy web traffic creates. What fake news isn’t, is reputable news sources doing quality reporting that someone happens to not agree with.
Adding to the current negative view on journalism, many believe journalism is a dying field. However, journalism is just as present as it has ever been. Journalism has been transitioning from print to digital; however, even though the sales of physical newspapers have declined, newspaper companies are still succeeding. For example, Sydney Ember, in her article published on nytimes.com, a newspaper with worldwide influence and 122 Pulitzer prizes, reports that the New York Times Company added 157,000 digital-only subscriptions in the fourth quarter of 2017. Total revenue for the paper increased by 8 percent in 2017.
In addition, social media use is widespread throughout our society, and many news sources have a number of online articles free and accessible to a large audience. Social media and digital news also provide a constantly-updating news cycle.
Now that we’ve corrected some of the broadest misconceptions about journalism, I will explain some ways that you can support well-done journalism. The first thing you need to do to support well-done journalism is to know how to fact-check news stories to ensure that they aren’t fake stories.
You can begin this process on your own. When you see a news headline, the most important thing you can do is click on it and read more. Satirical pieces may have serious-sounding headlines, but once you read on from there, the rest is quickly understood as a joke.
Next, it is important to check the source of the article. Is it from a reputable news source? Is it from a reputable author? It’s also important to check the date it was published on. Even if it’s a legitimate story, it could be from years ago, and therefore not necessarily related to current events going on right now.
If you are still skeptical about the story after quickly checking these things, you can “consult the experts” for help. Eugene Kiely and Lori Robertson, in their article published in November 2016 on factcheck.org, a nonprofit and non-partisan website dedicated to reducing the levels of deception and confusion in US politics, recommends that readers check factcheck.org, snopes.com, the Washington Post Fact Checker, PolitiFact.com and similar sites to see if the story you are questioning has already been fact-checked by one of these sources. All in all, don’t spread misinformation.
After you’ve fact-checked the news stories you see, you can actively engage in journalism. There are many different ways to do this. First and foremost, read news. Read not only the national sources— like TheNew York Times, TheWashington Post, USA Today, CNN and more—but also read local news. Anna Clark, in her blog post based on her experience in the field of journalism as a journalist, posted in November 2016, comments that many local news sources have closed throughout the United States. She says that without local news, people in their individual parts of the country can miss important information that will not make it to the national news.
Whether you’re reading local news or national news, do it with the ad blockers turned off on your computer. Since many people only read news within their allotted number of free online articles per month instead of paying for a subscription, advertisements basically fund news companies now. If you read a free article with the ads blocked, the news company doesn’t get any money for it. Simply ignoring ads instead of getting rid of them can save your favorite news company.
Beyond reading news, there are other ways to engage with journalism. Share articles on social media and respond to them. Sharing news articles help to not only inform the people that follow you, but also get the article more views. Additionally, you can write letters to the editor to respond to news topics that interest you, and you can comment on the news companies’ social media when a story asks for reader response.
A final way to support well-done journalism is to donate to organizations that support journalists. Some of these groups include the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, The Investigative Fund, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Media Law Resource Center and more. Although the goals of these groups vary slightly, some main goals include providing legal assistance and funding to journalists and preserving the First Amendment right to free press.
Now that we’ve established how you can support both local and national news companies and their work, it essential that you implement these things in your own life. Why? Because journalism is essential to democracy. Jake Miller, in his article published in May 2015 on cbsnews.com, the Columbia Broadcasting System, a leading news division in the US, reports that while president, Barack Obama said that free press plays a “vital” role in democracy. Obama said that journalists provide the truth about our countries, governments and ourselves, and this gives voice to the voiceless, exposes injustice, and holds leaders accountable. In my own words: journalism holds great power.
If you realize journalism has great value and is not “fake news” and you take the aforementioned steps to support it, then that will make each one of us educated and active members of democracy in our nation.
Journalism is much more than “fake news” and it’s far from dying; in fact, journalism in the United States is incredibly valuable.
Today, right now, after you finish reading this, I want you to increase your engagement with journalism. You can begin by reading some news articles until you find one that you think others should also read. Share it on social media. In the long run, I want you to continue reading news. Subscribe to one news source you love or donate to one organization that supports journalists.
It is essential to our country that journalism remain a trusted, successful field that shines light on the events going on. Because as The Washington Postmaintains as its slogan: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.