By Allison Antram, Managing Editor
“So what are you studying?” an unwritten code of small talk dictates all adults must ask me this, among a pool of other questions (Do you have plans after graduation? Are you dating anyone?). The best part is their response when I say “Creative Writing and Journalism” – some are engaged, and say “oh that’s great!” and others choose from a variety of “oh,”s. My personal favorite was a new doctor with a particularly dry and sarcastic sense of humor, who said “ah, what a booming business to be in right now,” quickly followed by a chuckle and “isn’t print dying?”
Particularly looking at the focus of millennial attention, I suppose the answer could be yes. Our news, if we read it, is often presented through quick, more easily digestible glances, such as Twitter or even Snapchat. Any journalism class will inform you that social media has made journalism a vast and difficult-to-define field, as in our modern and media-driven world, anyone can report anything.
An editorial in the Huffington Post explained that “innovation is probably the most used and most misunderstood word in our industry these days. Some get it, others make an effort to embrace it, but the majority finds it difficult to come to grips with it;” and went on to argue that successful media brands will embrace innovation in a balance of credible journalism and community conversation (“Journalism In A New Era”).
For example, CNN announced in March that they were “planning to pour $20 million into its digital products as it looks to expand its reach while also fending off the growth of a new crop of online media companies,” specifically citing Buzzfeed as a concern (“CNN to Pump $20 Million Into Digital Expansion,” WSJ.com).
This is no surprise, as Buzzfeed has dominated millennial attention and their humorous, list-style content has arguably largely impacted the way online content is written and marketed in general. As a writer, I have been asked many times to rewrite something “Buzzfeed style,” often at a sacrifice of meaning or quality. It seems that we have become much less concerned with the depth and professionalism of a well-written article and much more concerned with the almighty gauge of how shareable something is.
And hear me when I say: I am guilty of this. What we tend to read and revere involves one of the following phrases: “5 Reasons to,” “An Open Letter To,” or “Why I…”. We are largely concerned with personally-applicable, sharable articles; they are funny or insightful, and quite frankly the news is often depressing.
While I appreciate the perspective and humor offered, the more I scroll through shared articles on Facebook, the more concerned I am that we have lost the definition of platforms – what should be credible news is twisted to our preferences, and blog style, with the informality, bleeding messiness and occasional bitterness it’s prone to, spills over into professional mediums. If print journalism is dying, it could be because online journalism is being cheapened.
Or optimistically, it can also be said that journalism is being reinvented, rather – the Panama Papers scandal reflects continued relevance of investigative reporting, seen in famed instances such as Watergate or the Catholic Church sex scandal, better known for its recent Oscar award winning cinematic recreation, Spotlight. The value on this is not overlooked, as even Buzzfeed and Fusion have ever-developing investigative teams. So at this turning point of potentially reborn journalism, it becomes the responsibility of the consuming public to decide: do we want to be informed, or do we want to be entertained?
There will be days when we choose the latter; we choose what is convenient and appeasable. But I hope more often than not, we strive to care – to read and learn and be well-rounded in our understandings.
On a recent visit to the Newseum in Washington D.C., I wandered through exhibits highlighting the Berlin Wall, the Civil Rights movement and 9/11 before settling at a World News gallery, which displayed the press freedoms of each country and told the stories of journalists or photojournalists who had, in the last few years, been kidnapped or killed in the process of boldly doing their jobs. And whether or not you share in my journalism nerdy-ness, there is a privilege to be appreciated in our First Amendment and the people who fight and work tirelessly so that we can use that privilege.
Journalism, in its purest form, documents history and fights for truth, but it means nothing if it falls on an ignorant public; I hope that we, as Christians and as young Americans, can make the effort to remove ourselves from such a generalization. The news is depressing, yes, because our world is deeply broken. But we have an opportunity to care, to know, and to do something about it. Journalism (print included) is being reinvented, and it will only die if we neglect it.