In a world where information is endlessly and vastly accessible, the role of journalism in delivering truth grows more valuable. With clickbait titles, fake news, and a conflation between reporting and entertainment, journalists must bring humanity and truth back to a practice filled with sensationalism and devoid of sincerity.
Alternative media outlets including Buzzfeed, YouTube, and other social networks have arisen to prominence for a few reasons: accessibility, immediacy, and amusement.
The internet requires little effort to access, and most Buzzfeed articles do not generally require a profound understanding of the topics or theories discussed. Their intellectual accessibility is commendable, yet some of this content seems almost patronizing and rather frivolous.
This trend is hardly new, with channels like E!News or TMZ focusing solely on celebrity, gossip-based “news.” The tendency to conflate the two in the modern world potentially harms our ability to distinguish reality.
Most 21st century media maintains features that cater to the pervasive presence of sensationalism in news consumption. “Clickbait” headlines and fake news heavily contribute to this phenomenon in modern media.
Going back to the rise of gossip culture in news publications, we already have a notion of doubt — we are taught that celebrity life is often exaggerated and falsified. This invariably extends into traditional reporting.
Sensationalism breeds a culture of ignorance, but also an unproductive paranoia. When we trivialize reality or fail to acknowledge its complexity, we risk promoting complacency or fear.
To present climate change as imminent and inevitable, for example, ignores the important efforts individuals can take. Rather than indulging in politicians’ reluctance to engage with climate change in office, journalists could bring attention to activists who are pushing for change and show the whole story, not just the darker aspects of a universal problem.
With the emergence of multi-functional, online news sources, print editions, less-accessible periodicals, and local newspapers all suffer from decreased relevance. This ultimately affects the practice of journalism as it adapts to a new world.
Disinterest in local, smaller publications also results in individuals being less active in their communities, and decreases the authenticity and comfort of “community.”
When we read publications like Vox or the New York Times, we are confronted by news on a global scale; with the world’s problems so to speak. Constantly facing all of this information is daunting, and allows for complacency and cynicism.
This is relevant to the discussion of modern journalism because it deals directly with fear and paralysis caused by sensory overload. Human beings create institutions to navigate an increasingly interconnected, complicated reality. This fundamentally changes how we interact with information, with each other, and with the world.
We have an irrational belief that change must be grand in order to be impactful. Local papers compartmentalize issues to a certain area geographically, but also offer more intimate and personal reporting. Perhaps we would feel more inclined to promote community improvement if local newspapers adapted to a changing consumer landscape.
Thus, newspapers and traditional periodicals are not necessarily becoming obsolete. Rather, the culture of journalism in the modern world must shift: journalism needs to return to its roots in truth and objective information.
Journalism is an exercise in empathy, in understanding humanity and the absurd, grim, fantastic reality we created. If we focused more on problem-solving and optimism rather than pessimism and triviality, we may reignite journalism both locally and globally.