A Public Service Announcement
We want everything, and we want it fast. Why should we worry about cooking when we can grab fast food across the street? Why do we need to go to a library to do research when we have Google at our fingertips? Following that same logic, why do we need to read newspapers and listen to reports when we can get tidbits on important events from social media sites and newsfeeds? We, the editorial board, are not here to analyze and critique this lifestyle of instant gratification which we live by as well.
However, we would like to set a few things straight with respect to our field of expertise at the New University — journalism. More specifically, we would like to define journalism. To do so, we take a look at what it is not.
With the rise of technology, online news media giants like Buzzfeed have begun to garner more attention as new-age forms of journalism when they, simply put, are not. Buzzfeed in particular is commonly and wrongly perceived as journalism.
When we look through the clutter of “Since When Is Telling A Woman To Eat Your Dick Standing Up For Service Workers?” to find a real hard news story, what we often find is a regurgitation of an actual news story in bullet point form, accompanied by large photos that only take up space and do not emphasize the facts of the article.
Take a look at buzzfeedminusgifs.tumblr.com for the stark lack of actual writing on the website. Furthermore, we doubt that these Buzzfeed writers get the facts directly through investigative journalism, since everything they report can be found in press releases and on other (real) news articles.
Real journalists investigate and shed light on facts that cannot be expressed in a gif or in 140 characters. Real news stories connect facts to form a coherent narrative about the state of life in the world. We are not being unnecessarily anachronistic or ideological.
To inform the people about an idea or an event is a duty that should be done responsibly.
Technology makes it easy for any user to report the state of this world. Consider the important role Twitter played in the “Arab Springs” revolution, which started in 2011. But technology is not an incentive to play loose with facts or disguise opinions as facts.
The digital innovations have helped us supplement and augment our work, not dilute and simplify it. Consider how The Boston Globe harnessed online multimedia resources for its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. The Globe created a page dedicated to the tragedy with categories like “The wounded,” “Healing the city” and “Watertown manhunt and capture,” complete with videos, photos and graphics.
This journalistic effort served the public by putting a drastic and violent event into perspective. The coverage done by The Boston Globe could not have been condensed into palatable bites because violent or historic events are not palatable.
Though we have clearly pointed out how online social news media websites like Buzzfeed do not produce real journalism, we acknowledge that they do share and spread news, which is half the battle of journalism these days. Social media outlets reach a larger group of younger audience than news outlets like The New York Times does.
But we cannot overlook the fact that Buzzfeed is intentionally and wrongly simplified so that younger audiences would frequent it more. Buzzfeed panders to our desire for entertainment and simplicity.
Reading The New York Times is not as fun as browsing Buzzfeed.com, which is exactly what the content creator of Buzzfeed kept in mind in order to increase web traffic. But reportage should not be diluted to increase web traffic and advertising revenue, and genuine journalism cannot be found in this site dedicated to “tracking viral content and making things people wanted to share.”
Journalism is a public service endeavor with the end result being a more informed public. And any source that properly informs the public is legitimate. Last year, Huffington Post, an exclusively online news source, won the Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting for its 10-part series report on wounded veterans and their families. The rules of journalism have not been rewritten; online and print accomplish the same goal of putting this fast-paced world into perspective.
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