Is the Influence of Traditional Media Dying?
With the introduction of the internet came profound predictions by scholars. Yochai Benkler proclaimed that the "roots of possible change offer a substantial alternative platform for the public sphere." The access and immediacy of online news and content could pose a threat to traditional press outlets.
Nonetheless, there is equal belief that traditional press is, and will remain, a solid authority. Largely, it is still where the bulk of citizens trust remains. The sheer abundance of information online is pushing users further towards the traditional sources that can relay information in a reliable and professional way.
In light of technological developments, it is a natural occurrence that the way we learn will change. Thus, it is inevitable that the traditional press will decrease in authority over time. In many ways, this decrease has been occurring for the last three decades.
Firstly, distrust in traditional press corporation behaviour has grown substantially, with society questioning the reliability and sincerity of the journalism and ethics involved. Examples of bribery and hacking have not gone unnoticed by the public, as a survey from YouGov found that 68% of respondents believed that "its never acceptable for journalists to break the law, no matter how important the story." Another 72% agreed that "the press is out of control and needs tighter regulation."
Secondly, social media has provided an immediate channel for users to effectively become the journalist. The tsunami of 2004 was, according to scholar James Surrowiecki, "a seminal moment, a moment in which the blogosphere came, to a certain degree, of age." This was one of the first real instances of first-hand witnesses sharing news faster than any traditional outlet. Examples like these continue, as individuals build on their prerogative to share information on social platforms.
Finally, not only is news being released first on various other networks; this is actually becoming a favoured location to seek news for users. The first Reuters Institute Digital Report has found that 43% of Britons aged between 16 and 24 are now much more likely to access news through social networks such as Facebook, rather than search engines. It has also been reported that one in six (17%) British adults claim they will refer to newspapers less frequently next year than they do now.
Arguably, the power and influence of a news source that is so immediate and encourages user engagement is not something the traditional press will be able to withstand.
The influence of the traditional press is not dying but evolving. Particularly when it comes to stories that are in the publics interest, the traditional press will continue to investigate and release stories, as new media cannot compete with the resources available.
Statistics from the National Readership Survey 2013 show that the readership of the top 10 papers is still over 67 million readers per week in the UK. These high readership rates imply that there remains a loyalty to traditional press. Whilst threats to this may evolve online, traditional sources remain the ultimate authority. This assumption is supported by a survey carried out at the University of New York, which found that traditional press is viewed as the most trusted credible and expert resource.
A higher standard of investigative journalism is also prevalent in traditional forms, which the infancy of new media cannot match. The revelations brought about by Snowden may never have reached the masses without the support of the Guardian. Occurrences like this reveal the necessity for a self-regulating yet resourceful media institution. Is setting the agenda something we would want to leave in the hands of the masses?
Not only is the agenda questionable, but equally, the credibility. Hoax news has often been a dangerous aspect of Twitter and other punk news sites. In 2010, a rumour that doctors were to be flown by major airlines to Haiti, to assist those affected by the earthquake was shared. When the news was believed by masses, a spokesman from American Airlines was forced to announce that it was indeed false, stating "We don't know who is responsible, but it's a very low thing to do."
The traditional press – though facing new challenges – is certainly not dying. Investigative journalism continues to reveal breaking news that would otherwise be unavailable. In the meantime, readers maintain their loyalty and trust in traditional sources.
In debating this topic, its clear to observe that traditional media is facing serious challenges and constantly working within an evolving setting. Nonetheless, to claim that it is dying would go against clear evidence that it still holds much authority. This debate can easily become a muddled case of semantics, as dying insinuates a death. I dont believe traditional media will die, but certainly do believe that the challenges it faces will lead to its methodology and influence changing substantially.