By Tope Oke
Journalism is simply news gathering and reporting. It is the putting together of current happenings based on facts and evidence and disseminating same. While the definition of journalism has remained somewhat static over the years, the job description of a journalist has been redefined and constantly shifting. While the primary focus of the profession still remains the same, it is the medium by which it is done that’s been transformed significantly.
The origins of journalism, though variable, date back to centuries ago. The earliest means of transmitting the news was by touch and later, gestures. Then came drawings etched on slabs, slates and even on the ground. As literacy grew, transmission evolved to using word of mouth and written language. While some say journalism evolved from ancient Greece, many allude to the Acta Diurna Populi Romani (Daily Acts of the Roman People) as the true birth of journalism. Often referred to as the first “newspaper”, it was an official publication of the activities of the government posted in public places for the people to read. By the time the real newspapers launched from Gutenberg’s printing press in 1440, the world was introduced to the phrase ‘mass media’.
Thereupon, newspapers gained a foothold as the main and primary source of disseminating the news. It was accompanied, centuries later by the advent of broadcast journalism or the non-print media – telegraph, radio and eventually television which altered tremendously the dynamics of news gathering and reporting. The latter two in particular accelerated the reporting process, making it timely and pertinent.
The 21st century birthed the internet and with it new media which in many ways has revolutionized the industry. It has literally held journalism by the hand and dragged it into the digital space virtually shedding the newspapers that come with the print medium. Now, people can access the news at their fingertips, anywhere and anytime. There’s inevitable decline in newspaper production and distribution resulted in a more than corresponding increase in its online version over the last decade. Print media organizations have been forced to either go with the times or go home. Smart phones and social media have formed a formidable partnership to build convergence on a large scale. People now have real time information on the go. It has its cons though – the proliferation of ‘fake news’ and its attendant consequences. Professionalism in the industry now entails being able to filter the evidence-based facts from disinformation.
Talking about journalists, they too have been forced to acclimatize or go redundant. In response to the times, modern day journalists now have to upskill themselves, especially with imagery and video skills to remain relevant. Nowadays, a reporter can capture and edit an event or incident on his mobile phone and produce a story in record time. In other words, technology has armed journalists to do more with less.
From writing on slabs to being referred to as the fourth estate of the realm piercingly depicts remarkable evolution journalism has gone through – and it is still evolving. Its influence was seen again, in the recent US elections where it called the winner before ballots were conclusively counted. Despite being susceptible to varying problems, pressure and partisanship, it is crucial that the main tenets of democracy remain steadfast especially in a world where agendas and narratives are constantly being spun.
Tope Oke is a businessman, writer and social commentator.