The Rise of Digital Journalism

Journalism has unquestionably changed in recent years. You just have to ask yourself how you got your news 20 years ago compared to how you get it today. The chances are it is through a very different process.

This has meant that journalists have had to adjust their approach to news production and learn new skills to remain relevant. As with many careers, the digital aspect is integral to how modern journalism functions. Education is a big part of this, with a digital journalism degree equipping journalists with the skills they need to succeed in the modern world.

So, what is digital journalism, and how did it become such a big part of our lives?

What is Digital Journalism?

Digital journalism is very much what it sounds like. In its most basic form, it is simply journalistic content that is posted on the internet. However, journalism is a complex field, and when you add the technological side of the digital world to it, it takes on even more nuances.

Journalism has changed beyond recognition in recent years. Consumers interact with the news in very different ways, and this means journalists have had to adapt their approach.

We now live in a world of 24-hour news, where fewer and fewer people buy a physical newspaper, and more and more people use social media as their primary news source. This is a huge shift, and as news plays an important part in people’s lives, it means digital journalism has taken on huge importance.

While digital journalism draws on all of the same principles of traditional journalism, it reflects the modern way we consume news and allows journalists to maximize their reach through technology.

Why Has Digital Journalism Risen in Popularity?

Technology has changed the way we live.

If you go back to the early 2000s, we were aware that the internet could transform our lives to some extent, but few could have imagined just how.

Today, there are 2.71 billion smartphone users worldwide, 3.96 billion people on social media, and the average internet user spends 144 minutes a day on social media. When you think that Facebook was not even founded until 2004, it goes to show the wholesale changes our lives have faced.

The upshot of this is that we are uber-connected. We can reach anyone at any given time, and we can know what is happening on the other side of the world as if we were there. Crucially for journalism, we have access to the news no matter what time it is or where we are.

Convenience is always a driver in human behavior, and it has become incredibly easy to consume the news. You do not have to walk to the shop to buy a newspaper or wait for the evening news on TV, you just have to pull out your phone, and there it is.

As you would imagine, this has caused a big shift in the journalistic world, and those businesses that have been able to leverage digital journalism have thrived, whereas those that have not faced great challenges.

The total number of people employed in newsrooms across America almost halved between 2006 (74,410) and 2018 (37,900), and this goes to show the shift away from traditional print media.

Why Does It Matter?

You can say the shift to digital journalism is a natural progression, so what does it matter?

The thing is journalism is an important cog in democratic societies. High-profile events such as the Nixon Watergate scandal go to show how good journalism keeps people accountable.

However, journalism goes beyond this. It is about empowering people with facts, and this gives people the ability to make more informed decisions about their lives.

In a digital world where there are few barriers to posting information to a large audience, it is important there are still high-quality journalists out there who can use the digital world to arm people with facts.

A shift to digital journalism should not mean lower journalistic standards, and in fact, it should mean the opposite. In the digital world, there is even more competition for people’s attention, and journalists need to be able to use the tools of their trade to out-compete lower-quality news sources.

Modern society is very aware of the difficulties it faces with things like disinformation and fake news, but it is not nearly as clear on how we can deal with them. While it will take a multi-pronged approach to overcome these problems, undoubtedly, high-quality journalists’ education through a digital journalism degree can play a part.

How Journalism Went Digital

As far back as 2016, 62% of US adults got their news from social media. It is not just social media that has caused journalism to go digital, though; it is our entire lifestyle.

In 2007, when Apple launched the first iPhone, life looked very different. Yes, we had smartphones before this, but this was a time when slowly but surely, everyone became more connected. Suddenly, most people had access to the internet through a small device in their pocket, which changed so many things about the way we live.

Since then, the amount of time we spend on our mobile devices has increased exponentially, and naturally, this has changed the way we consume news.

Big media companies had to adapt to our changing habits, and it was clear this meant taking journalism digital. People wanted immediate access to information, and if they were not going to do it, then that void would be filled by someone else.

However, adapting to different mediums meant there would be a change in the way journalism was conducted.

Characteristics of Digital Journalism

Going digital has added new characteristics to journalism:

  • Interactivity
  • Hypertextuality
  • Multimedia

There was not the same “back and forth” between the producers and consumers of news in the past. Today, consumers can interact with journalists through comments, shares, and likes, and this has a big impact – consumers can shape opinion.

Producers of news also can guide consumers through their journey. With the use of hyperlinks, information is linked together, allowing people to explore certain ideas in more depth, and is an important part of how news is spread.

This hypertextuality and personalization is a key part of how the internet works, and it can be seen in products such as Apple news. Users get shown news articles based on the type of news they have consumed in the past, giving them a personalized experience.

Within this, there is also the opportunity to use many different forms of media. In the past, you either read a newspaper, watched TV, or listened to the radio for your news, but today, journalists can incorporate all three of these mediums into one article.

This means journalists have to be multidimensional and make use of all the tools the internet offers them. Different people consume information in very different ways, but it is possible to engage all of them through the internet.

Learning Digital Journalism

Like many industries, journalism has gone through a digital transformation, and the educational system should reflect this. Journalism is very different from what it was 10 or 15 years ago, and a digital journalism degree reflects this.

With a digital journalism degree, students not only learn the core principles of journalism but also the digital skills that are a necessity in the modern world:

  • Foundational skills in photography, video, design, and audio
  • Coding through HTML, JavaScript, CSL, and other tools
  • Reporting emerging news in real-time using social media
  • Incorporating digital news into the wider genre of journalism
  • Building a personal brand as a journalist
  • Analyzing data to understand how people consume information

Any degree has to reflect the modern world’s realities, and a digital journalism degree does just this. It prepares students for the tools they need to reach people with high-quality information and engage people through the platforms they are using in the real world.

Whether people are looking to break into journalism as a new career or go back to education to develop skills that can take their careers forward, a digital journalism degree is an excellent option.

Implementing Digital Journalism

One of the defining characteristics of digital journalism is that there are very few barriers to entry.

Once you have earned your digital journalism degree, there is nothing stopping you from setting up your own website and putting your skills into practice. This is a great way to showcase your skills and attract attention from big outlets.

While anyone can start a website or post news on their social media feeds, it does not mean it is easy to get traction, though. It is a competitive world on the internet, and you have got to consistently take the right steps if you are going to get noticed.

This is where your digital journalism degree can make all the difference. You will graduate with the knowledge and skills that allow you to find the best information and present it in a way that is going to resonate with your audience.

Whether you are developing your own publication or working for a media company, these are skills that will make you stand out from the crowd and give you the best chance of success in this competitive field.

Challenges of Digital Journalism

When the world changes so quickly in such a short space of time, there are bound to be teething problems. This is very true with journalism, and we often see these issues in modern society.

The digital world has given a platform to anybody who wants to express their views, but what happens when they do so for malevolent purposes? There have been lots of examples of this in recent years with debates over things like election tampering, fake news, and freedom of expression vs personal protections.

While this remains a very challenging issue, one thing that can help is having more high-quality journalists who understand the digital age. This is where a digital journalism degree can play a huge part.

It is difficult to challenge disinformation, but if we have quality news establishments that can use the internet to inform people, it can act as a counterbalance.

The Future of Journalism

Journalism will always change to fit the environment it exists in. In recent years that has meant a shift towards digital journalism, and it is likely to continue in this direction.

The world creates so much information these days – it’s said the average American consumes the equivalent of 34GB of data each day, which is an increase of 350% over three decades. This has made a massive difference to the way journalists operate, and it will continue to do so.

What is important is that journalists continue to prepare for their professions’ future challenges with courses like a digital journalism degree. With so much competition for people’s attention, journalists must understand how to engage their audience while still keeping up journalistic standards, and the best way to do this is with the right education.

We cannot predict what the world will look like in 20 years’ time, but if it goes through the same level of change it has in the past 20 years, then journalism is going to have to continue to adapt at a rapid pace.

Conclusion

It would have been very difficult to picture what journalism looks like today at the turn of the century. We did not really have social media or smartphones yet, and it was difficult to imagine the instant access to the information we have today.

This has changed the way we consume and interact with news, and it is changed the way journalism is carried out. Today, digital journalism is vitally important, and it is reflected in things like digital journalism degrees.

The world continues to need high-quality journalism, and it always will, but modern journalists need to be able to reach their audience in the right way, and to do this, they have got to be able to harness the technology of the digital age.

 

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