Do we “dumb down” the news for online journalism?

It has become apparent through my studies in Online Journalism that although not everyone is a fan of the new journalistic models, online news is in fact the way of the future. Now that people are used to having up-to-the-minute information at their fingertips, there’s no going back to waiting for the newspaper to be delivered or the 6 o’clock nightly news.

But at what cost?

In a lecture at the University of South Australia, Chairman of Private Media, Eric Beecher, said that online journalism is contributing to the ‘dumbing down’ of journalism.

You can watch it below.

According to Beecher, newspapers can no longer afford the number of journalists required to deliver quality journalism that fulfils its role as the fourth estate. Online news sites have taken away much of the advertising revenue that has traditionally funded journalism. Beecher says that no one, as yet, has developed the perfect model to fund mass market news, and questions who will pay for what he calls the ” single biggest safeguard of our democracy”.

According to the Pew Research Centre,

“U.S. newspapers lost $10 in print advertising revenue last year for every $1 they gained online, a deeper loss than in 2010, as competition from Internet companies increases.”

Considered in light of the fact that journalism, as the fourth estate, has the ability to question the government, uncover and publicise corruption, investigate issues and spread ideas, that is quite a worrying statistic. This is especially so when you consider the scary fact that ‘news’ (by some stretch of the word) is now considered to extend to websites like TMZ, NineMSN’s Celebrity Fix and Perez Hilton‘s blog. What better way to dumb down the news than to give Miley Cyrus’ new haircut its’ own article, and publicise it so widely you’d think the world really cared?

Leading on from that, one has to question the quality of news in general as journalists are challenged by hunger news consumers to deliver the most up-to-date turn of events.

A recent assessment piece required my QUTOJ1 peers and I to watch a series of media conferences, while writing a live blog (read: thinking on your feet, and typing like your life depends on it). Needless to say, I was not used to this type of assessment and I struggled. However, the assessment really got me thinking about the speed at which journalists have to work… and I have to wonder how on earth they can produce quality pieces. In this new media-obsessed age, are we sacrificing quality for speed? I’ll get back to you on that one soon. Stay tuned!

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