By Ezinwanne Onwuka
Knowledge maketh a man, they say. The idea behind this age old saying is that without knowledge, humans would be no better than unintelligent animals. Journalists, historians, and researchers – these are the people who are credited with providing knowledge to humanity. Among these, it is journalists who provide us with all of our knowledge of current events and occurrences around the world.
Journalism is the act of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities. Journalism is the product of every newspaper you read, every news station you watch, and every news article you read online. Journalism can be regarded as the fourth branch of government, holding public officials accountable and informing citizens of prominent issues.
Additionally, journalism is about giving citizens the tools and information they need to be good citizens. To satisfy that role requires an ethic, an understanding of the importance of the role, the importance of shining a light on how our societies work or don’t work, how our institutions and governments serve us or don’t serve us. A journalist’s role, therefore, is to help us understand our world, help us know how to think — without telling us what to think.
The purpose and importance of journalism is to inform society with the information they need to live their lives. Without journalism, the world would be ignorant. Journalism is important because it gives current and relevant information and news to the public.
Journalism today is a far cry from what it used to be. With the boom in information and communications technology over the last two decades, the world of journalism has changed immensely. In the past, you received the majority of your news and information from your local newspaper published every morning. Today, relying on only one source to receive all of your news and information seems unheard of. Newspapers are still around today, but we have so much more to go along with them. We don’t have to wait an entire day for our news anymore – we wait mere seconds. Now we see the news as it’s happening instead of getting recaps of it the next day. With the rise of the Internet, we have an abundance of news sources directly at our fingertips.
Hence, there is information everywhere that people consume anytime they want. They don’t need to go to the store to buy a newspaper anymore. All they have to do is reach into their pocket and enter a quick Google search, and they’ll discover a wealth of knowledge on the subject. In modern day society, accessing the latest news has become a lot easier for people due to it going beyond just a newspaper. All thanks to the Internet.
Yes, the Internet happened. It dramatically lowered the barriers to publishing. It created a vast new marketplace for information, a new marketplace that offers exponentially more choice than the world of print. A richness of choice that triggered dramatic changes in consumer behavior. The Internet has led journalism into the digital age, giving readers online subscription options, real-time notifications, and stories tailored to their interests.
This goes to show that we live in a dramatically different world. A world where people consume news more than ever before, from more sources than ever before. It has changed how they learn about their world. It has changed how they form opinions about their world. The reasons are obvious: the impact of new media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. WhatsApp, Instagram; the emergence of new devices like smartphones or tablets, and perhaps, the most crucial – changing audience behaviour.
Today, because of the Internet, we have an audience that is equipped to do the same journalistic work or possibly even better than journalists themselves. An audience who have instant access to news, who can report news straight from the scene and share it multifold via social media. An audience, who wants to be a superhero too. The result being that more and more consumers of news are becoming contributors to and creators of news. The social media community are journalists in a way because news can be reported in real time without a reporter actually being present. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Internet has demystified traditional media’s long age claim to being Gate Keepers.
The result of the foregoing is that today’s journalists face a new set of challenges. They’re no longer the runaway experts in the fields they write in. Today, their readers may be smarter, and better informed than they are. The vast marketplace of information, that is, the web changed information-seeking behaviors. Hence, there is need for Networked Journalism.
Networked Journalism, according to Charlie Beckett in his book, The Value of Networked Journalism (2010) is a concept where “professionals and amateurs are working together to get the real story, linking to each other accross brands and old boundaries to share facts, questions, anwers, ideas, perspectives – all this enabled by Web 2.0 technologies such as mobile phones, email, websites, blogs, micro-blogging, and social networks”.
This concept emerged because the audience behaviour has changed. Through the impact of new media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or WhatsApp, and new devices like smartphones, the audience no longer wants to sit at home and wait for news to arrive, they want to play an active role and participate in the creation and sharing of news. In earlier times, the public was more or less a passive recipient of information and news. In this digital era, the public is a community which plays a very important role.
The role of journalism has been evolving since its inception, and with the advent of the 21st century, it has undergone a massive transformation. In this modern era of technology, the Internet has become the treasure trove of information and news. Social media has contributed successfully in making the whole world just like one big family. Journalism now is not the monopoly of a few institutions or individuals.
Nevertheless, it is pertinent to note that even with the advent of the Internet, the role of journalism has stayed the same – journalists gather and report news. The Internet has made it possible for journalism to penetrate into even the smallest spheres of human lives. With the rise of technology and the increased popularity of social media over the years, journalism has turned its attention to the web. News outlets are now able to share stories through popular social media platforms and this allows a greater reach in regards to the audience. This paves way for a friendship-like relationship to develop between the audience and the journalist. The audience is able to chat with the journalist, ask questions, offer suggestions and leave comments.
The Internet and social media has given journalism a whole new edge. The coverage has expanded considerably and information has become more diverse and engaging. Furthermore, it also assists and acts as a motivator for the professionals to become sharper and perform better.
Ezinwanne Onwuka can be reached at email@example.com