“What do you want news to do?”
When we were asked this question two weeks ago, I had many vehement opinions about the future of news. I had been thinking about almost nothing else since hired at the Globe. Like many millennials, I was accustomed to the free access of information. When I began my job, and the reality of the journalism crisis suddenly woke me from my naiveté, my mind dashed off daydreaming about that “ah-ha” moment when journalists exalted their newfound path into the digital age. But as I continue to learn more, it seems as though there may not be an “ah-ha” moment, and that the entire enterprise of news is poised to crumble. And unlike other industries, there is yet to be a comparable, financially viable replacement to this establishment.
As I ruminated on and researched the possibilities for journalism, it became clear that–regardless of the current state of news–journalism is a highly skilled and necessary craft essential to progress as a modern society. Without it, we would be lost in something similar to the Dark Ages, subject to a sort of tyranny that naturally evolves from ignorance. In my mind, the question “What do you want news to do?” permutated into, “What are the pieces of modern news that must be preserved?”
First and foremost, the kernel of news is its ability to keep society informed and its leaders accountable. Regardless of where our new news comes from, it should continue to hold this value if we hope to preserve democracy.
New independent journalism seems to be moving back to a partisan viewpoint, which is refreshing and honest. I’m personally more trusting sources that admit their bias, than those that insist on their neutrality only to be engaging in clandestine partnerships. However, it’s important to remind the public that there are many opinions in the world, and we are each entitled to our own. The internet age has consequentially brought a din of information that individuals are left to sift through and make sense of. We have access to more kinds of media and knowledge than ever before, and it’s only natural to seek out the types of information we’re most interested in. But with partisan journalism, there needs to be a way to serve content from both sides of the playing field.
A journalist is a curator of cultural knowledge. News is like a museum of the present. A museum’s mission is to preserve the important aspects of art and culture through carefully curated sets of artifacts. News serves much the same role, but in real-time. Like curators, journalists train to dedicate their lives to the preservation of moments of reality in an insightful and engaging way. They encapsulate culture and share insight. Without curators, we are doomed to walk digital flea markets, hoping to stumble upon an important event that is crucial to our understanding of current affairs. But like most flea markets, all we’re likely to find is a collection of old recipe books from someone’s great aunt.
For journalism to continue someone must care about the preservation and curation of democracy. In a capitalist society, that someone also has to make a living from it. As is evident in software (specifically mobile) free is passable, but most paid services have a more polished product. The code is cleaner; the bugs are fewer. Obviously there are outliers on either end, but realistically this is the exception, not the rule. So as we move forward the question of “how?” remains unanswered. How does journalism remind us that we are lost without it, before we are actually lost and without?