Better Than it Ever Was: Journalism in the Internet Age

By: Masha Shollar  |  August 29, 2016
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newspaperA few weeks ago, I read an article from the New York Magazine called The Case Against the Media, By The Media. It was a long collection of interviews with various well-known journalists, authors, and newspaper editors. In the transcripts, these media elite railed against the many problems facing journalism today: the need for news to be quick rather than correct, the lack of in-depth and follow up reporting, and the click-bait culture that now pervades the internet and most newsrooms.

Reading it was depressing, a bit like a eulogy for my chosen career field. As influential reporters lamented the echo chamber that journalism had turned into and decried the lack of real investigative pieces, I wondered if perhaps I’d made a mistake, planting my flag in what turned out to be a field full of quicksand.

The public’s trust of the media is abysmally low, and many papers, radio stations, and cable news programs are accused of heavy partisan leaning and cherry-picking of the facts. Depending on who you ask, Fox News are crooked, CNN never tells the truth, talk radio hosts are obtuse, and The New York Times is little more than a socialist tabloid.

Facing a torrent of anger at traditional media, as well as claims from all sides that it’s been supplanted by citizen journalists on Twitter and other social media platforms, it’s easy to despair. For the layperson looking at the state of journalism today, it’s not a stretch to see the industry lost in a thicket, ignoring what’s really important for buzzy headlines. And every time another journalist is exposed as more of a fiction writer than a reporter, it adds fuel to the fire for all those who consider the field sketchy at best.

Looking at the evidence, some might be tempted to call it, declare the patient dead on the table. But that would be a mistake. Sure, journalism, like all other fields, suffers from problems, and problems that need to be corrected. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up entirely: it just means that it’s time for reform.

Reporters need to start authoring stories that may be considered less sexy and more necessary. News organizations need to make sure that they present a story accurately, not just first. In the breathless, all out rush for ratings, facts and nuance are being left behind in the dust. We need follow up stories on important bills, social justice measures, and anything else that affects our day to day lives.

You could ask yourself at this point, what does it matter? This is a campus newspaper, not the New York Times. Our editors and staff writers don’t have these issues to grapple with, at least not on the scale that faces the media elite today. Rarely, if ever, has a scandal faced The Observer and its staff.

But it does matter. Because a campus newspaper may not have the circulation, ad revenue, and high profile contacts that an institutional paper does, but it serves a very important purpose. In fact, in it’s own way, the goal of a campus paper is far nobler than that of a traditional one. It does not just seek to inform you of events, changes, and scandals in your world. Instead, it serves as a mouthpiece for the student body. Within its pages, writers can publish their thoughts, opinions, and research, disseminating information to their peers with the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve added their take to any given conversation. That is our purpose here: The Observer serves the student body of Stern College for Women, and amplifies their voices, helping them to be heard.

Perhaps it’s an idealistic — or even naive — way to view a monthly college paper. But college students have long been the progenitors of change in this country, protesting vociferously against everything from the Vietnam War to campus sexual assault to race relations. They pushed, and continue to push, issues into the light of national consciousness. It is part of the condition of youth to be idealistically naive and to advocate strongly for our beliefs. Here at The Observer, our goal is to provide a platform for students to avail themselves of. So, here’s your official invitation to get involved:  this is your paper. It’s a place for you to lift your voice, to share your emotions and thoughts, to try and affect change. After all, with the internet and social media, and the rise of citizen journalism, sharing your take on an issue has never been easier. In the New York Magazine article, the executive editor of the New York Times, Dean Baquet lamented some of the of the bad habits journalists have slipped into. But, he added, in many ways, media “is stunningly better. Journalism is better than it ever was.”

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