With the dawn of a new era of technology and hyper-connectivity, both national and international journalism will soon reach a crisis point. The printed press is in danger of extinction, while the internet keeps on growing and growing. How can journalists now find their own voice and keep the profession alive and well amongst the shouting of millions of people?
Khaled Hosseini once wrote that “If culture is a house, language is the key”. News is propelled by people, all of whom belong to one culture or another. But how are we to understand, to communicate properly, and deliver a balanced viewpoint if we wilfully misunderstand the languages and cultures of others? It has been proven that once a language has been learned, a worldview is acquired, but with the fact that some British ambassadors are unable to speak the local language actively causing problems in diplomacy, I believe the same can be said for journalism. Only through acknowledging our differences and trying to understand the news from another angle can journalists really get to the heart of a story.
Imagine if, in war zones, on location, journalists didn’t have to use an interpreter to speak to their interviewees, but could communicate with them directly? How much more information would they be able to gather that would otherwise have been lost in translation? Nelson Mandela said that if you speak to someone in one language, you speak to their head, but if you speak to them in their native language, you speak to their heart.
Protecting specific cultural legacies in journalism, instead of printing in a homogenous mass, would work to the advantage of the whole world. People feel more connected if the media makes an effort to connect with them, and at the moment world languages are disappearing at an alarming rate. This can be time-consuming. But missing out huge swathes of the world’s populace because they don’t have access to content in their mother tongue seems wrong somehow. Everyone deserves to know what’s happening in our world, and thanks to incredible technological advances, we can now make this a priority.
Technology is often touted as the future of journalism. We are more connected than we ever have been before, and we find it strange if someone doesn’t own a smartphone. However, this can have serious consequences when it comes to journalism. Although the news can be updated quicker than ever before, the sheer speed with which these interactions are allowed to take place can ultimately damage credibility: often there simply isn’t time to fact-check or proof-read properly, which can lead to a severe dip in journalistic quality.
With the internet dominating our lives, there are more and more voices all shouting to be heard. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing – if the press can be called one thing, it’s no longer elitist. Everyone has their own voice, whether on Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr or Reddit – all these social networks are highly influential in their own right, and the internet has an answer for everything you ask. So how can quality journalists compete? By sticking to the facts, by not sensationalising needlessly, and exhibiting rigour in their personal style which is often sadly lacking in many internet posts.
If used in the right way, journalists can use technology to produce better quality articles, much faster. Simple facts can be checked instantly, although care must be taken with emerging stories not to needlessly muddle or create errors. In short, integrity seems to be the key message here, although this is admittedly much harder to do in a world where gratification is instantaneous, where you only have to press a few buttons to find the answer you want.
However, one of the greatest strengths of the internet is its adaptability. Stories no longer have to consist of plain text, with one or two images. Journalists can use all sorts of media to create a lively story, which will in turn engage readers quicker and easier than a page of cramped text. Although the story itself will still be the backbone of journalism, there will be a greatly increased scope for creativity. If we can imitate Harry Potter’s “Daily Prophet” moving pictures in advertising on the Tube, for example, it must surely be possible to animate news stories while people are waiting for their train.
Despite these promising new creative advances, the British press in particular has suffered an enormous amount of scandal in recent years, with the Leveson inquiry rocking the whole media establishment. A certain note of cynicism and distrust is visible when British people mention their national press. Perhaps the future of journalism constitutes transparency, linked with a sense of integrity – people should be able to trust their national media, without feeling like things are being kept or censored from them. In Europe we are, in general, remarkably lucky where freedom of the press is not just a political slogan but an often-exercised right, and where actual censorship is thankfully rare.
Transparency, creativity and inclusivity encapsulate the future of journalism. As we grow ever more conscious that we live in the European Union, there is a greater drive towards co-operation, cultural awareness and tolerance that will be invaluable in the journalistic sphere. In addition, technological advances will and are currently allowing an unprecedented surge of creativity in the industry, where journalists are finding ever more diverse and fascinating ways to tell their stories. But perhaps it’s transparency that will be the most important aspect of future journalism. Thanks to the internet, the public have voices, and they’re determined to use them to better the world they live in.
Rebecca Sian Wyde is one of five student winners set to participate in the International Journalism Festival panel discussion on the future of journalism on 17 April. Sponsored by Amazon, the award was judged by journalists at the Guardian, La Stampa, El Pais and DWDL.de