You could argue that British journalism is about to enter a golden age in this new century. After all, it is now a trade almost entirely composed of university-trained graduates, policed by watchdogs, which still sells far more papers and makes more broadcast news bulletins than any comparable European rival. WIth the internet, it has access to more information, faster, than any journalism has ever had before. Because modern communications are so fast and so easy to use, it is probably harder to lie in journalism than it used to be, too… The trouble is, it isn’t working. Newspaper sales have crashed over the past three decades. Paid-for nationals are a million down in the past five years. The audiences for mainstream TV bulletins have fallen too, and the new twenty-four-hour digital news services have not filled the listening and viewing gap.’ (My Trade / Pan Macmillan 2004)
Although it was written four years ago, I think Andrew Marr has a point here- but as with most crystal-ball gazers, simultaneously misses the point. If we look back at the past few years, we’ve seen the beginnings of a new sort of journalism; I believe even in the past two years. It’s all to do with the internet. If you work in an office, you will be in front of a computer. This will give you access to the news; in video, radio, textual or televisual format. All in one, all mere fingertips away. Not only this, but from an inconcievably wide variety of sources as well.
2007 saw the rise of social networking, it was the year of facebook. I remember in that year that facebook was such a phenomena it frequently was the news. First there was the comment on how great it was from columnists, social commentary on how people hooked up with old flames and friends, then came worries over addiction and finally the news started to come in that it was costing businesses money as their workers spent all day poking each other, chatting idly to distant friends and commenting on drunk-night-out photos. Then the businesses banned facebook… before embracing more productive social media ventures such as linked-in.
My point is that around this time people started to seriously ‘live’ online. Socialising in this way created new etiquettes and ways of communicating- and as journalism is based on communication this cannot go un-noticed. The problem is, I don’t believe that people have yet found a way it can truly work. Before you even start thinking about the in-depth analysis and commentary provided by journalists and how that role has to change to embrace the new online life, you have to work out ways in which that becomes financially viable. I wrote about this in my first blog but I really believe that is the problem facing journalism- could the role of the journalist potentially change so much with the rise of citizen journalism that paid ‘career’ journalists simply won’t exist? Journalists could become coders… web designers… funnels for information or something else that just hasn’t been invented yet. Access to media production hardware is becoming cheap to the point where anyone can do it- and they do. Could the future be hyper-local citizen journalists with camera phones, feeding into a global network of news? I think this might have been unforseeable in 2004 when Andrew Marr wrote ‘My Trade’ but is becoming more and more viable by the day. You just can’t predict the future.