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What Is Journalism And Why Does It Matter In Today’s World?

Understanding the Benefits of Journalism [updated DEC 16, 2023]

Published: December 16, 2023

Rebekah Carter

Journalism is a concept most of us are relatively familiar with.

In fact, according to some reports, the first instance of “journalism” as a concept dates back to 1476, when a rudimentary printing press emerged.

We’ve grown up constantly exposed to different kinds of journalism, from the news stories reported on our television sets and radios to the information published in newspapers and magazines. Today, we’re also seeing an increase in new forms of journalism delivered through social media, podcasts, and online streams. 

However, even in a world where journalistic content is pervasive, many still find it challenging to define what journalism means. 

Here’s your guide to journalism and why it’s essential in today’s world. 

What is Journalism: The Foundations of Journalism

Journalism is the art and science of gathering, compiling, and presenting news via various forms of mass media. Essentially, it’s a form of sharing information and facts, often from an objective perspective, with a commitment to accuracy and education. 

According to Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach in “The Elements of Journalism”, the purpose of journalism isn’t defined by a specific set of techniques or the use of a particular technology. Instead, the goal of journalism is defined by the importance “news” plays in any person’s life. 

After all, knowledge is power, and we rely on access to a constant stream of updated and consistent information to survive in any landscape. News keeps us informed of what’s happening in the world around us, draws attention to the matters we need to be aware of, and inspires us to action. Though it may be exciting and entertaining, journalism is essentially a tool for empowerment. 

With journalistic writing and reporting, experts provide citizens with the information they need to navigate their lives. The journalism we see in the world today informs our decisions regarding interacting with our communities, societies, businesses, and even governments.

Why is Journalism Important?

So why is journalism so crucial to our lives as human beings? 

The media is often referred to as the “fourth pillar of the state”. In other words, it’s a foundational part of any community or landscape. For people to work and live together effectively, they need to be informed, not just about current events, but about the changes in our world and the impact we each have on the landscapes around us. 

The task of a journalist is mainly to report on current events and share valuable information. However, journalists are also experts in contextualizing events and using them to drive action. The reports we read push us to think about different concepts uniquely, expand our imaginations, and develop a deeper understanding of our planet. 

At a basic level, journalism creates a universal “awareness” among human beings, ensuring we all have access to a stream of facts and data relevant to our lives. 

Why Does Journalism Matter to Today’s World?

Journalism today is a world away from the reports we used to see several decades ago. There are more ways to consume news than ever before, from social media channels to online websites. Moreover, the internet and the connectedness of our world means it’s much easier to report and share information en-masse. As such, we’ve seen the emergence of different strains of journalism. 

There are still journalists committed to reporting on general world events, but we also have specialists in our society dedicated to specific types of news. You can explore different environments to learn about the latest financial news or stay up to date on the technology landscape. 

While journalism as a concept has evolved significantly over the years, the core purpose of the practice remains the same. Modern society wants and expects access to a constant flow of information. We like to feel educated and up to date. 

Journalism is important because it:

  • Facilitates crucial processes: We use data and facts to make decisions in any environment. In the day-to-day world, the news we read and the reports we see also influence our choices and actions. Journalism helps to facilitate democratic processes, like inspiring people to vote for the next leader of a country. It also pushes us to respond to critical issues harming humanity, from injustice and equality to global warming. 
  • Supports commerce: To make important decisions about what we’re going to purchase, we need to know what’s available in the landscape and the benefits of each solution. Since the early days of newspapers, journalism has helped to lubricate commerce and strengthen the development of brands. It creates awareness for new products and solutions and asks people to consider their needs and demands. 
  • Drives the transformation of culture: Journalism helps us to grow as people. The news reports we read about other communities and people help to connect us to people outside of our social groups. Media serves as a way to make the world more visible and help us understand how other people live. It helps to bridge some of the common gaps between communities existing across the globe. 

More than just another form of entertainment, Journalism empowers us to make better choices about our own lives and contribute to the lives of others with our actions.

Technological Evolution in Journalism

The Digital Transformation of News Gathering

In the realm of journalism, the advent of cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), data analytics, and digital platforms has revolutionized the way news is gathered, distributed, and consumed. This seismic shift has not only transformed traditional journalistic practices but also introduced novel opportunities and challenges.

AI and Automated Reporting: AI technologies, including natural language processing and machine learning, have given birth to automated reporting systems. These systems can quickly analyze data sets, from financial reports to sports statistics, and generate news articles. The Associated Press, for instance, has leveraged this technology to increase the volume and speed of its reporting. However, this raises questions about the role of human journalists and concerns about the potential for AI to perpetuate biases present in its training data.

Data Analytics in Investigative Journalism: Data journalism, driven by advanced analytics, allows journalists to uncover stories hidden in large data sets. Investigative journalism has been particularly transformed, with reporters now equipped to analyze complex data leaks like the Panama Papers. This shift towards data-driven journalism demands new skills from journalists but also enhances their ability to unearth stories that would have been impossible to discover previously.

Transforming Content Distribution and Consumption

The rise of digital platforms has dramatically altered how news is distributed and consumed. Social media, news aggregator apps, and online news portals have become primary news sources for many, overtaking traditional media like newspapers and television.

Social Media as a News Source: Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become crucial for real-time news dissemination. They enable journalists to reach a global audience instantly. However, this also poses challenges in terms of verifying the authenticity of information and managing the spread of misinformation.

Personalization Through Algorithms: Digital platforms use sophisticated algorithms to personalize content for users. This means that two people could receive vastly different news feeds based on their past interactions, creating ‘filter bubbles’ that can limit exposure to diverse viewpoints and potentially reinforce biases.

Engaging the Audience in the Digital Age

Technology has not only changed how news is created and distributed but also how it is engaged with by audiences.

Interactive and Immersive Storytelling: Advancements in technology have given rise to new forms of storytelling in journalism. Interactive articles, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) offer immersive experiences, making complex stories more understandable and engaging.

Citizen Journalism and User-Generated Content: The democratization of news production, facilitated by technology, has given rise to citizen journalism. Platforms like YouTube and blogging sites allow anyone to report news. This democratization brings diverse voices into the media landscape but also challenges professional journalists to differentiate their work through the quality of reporting and analysis.

Challenges with Audience Engagement: While digital platforms offer new ways to engage audiences, they also present challenges. The fight for attention in a crowded digital space means journalists must balance the need to attract clicks with maintaining journalistic integrity.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Journalism in a Tech-Driven World

The technological evolution in journalism is an ongoing journey. As we look to the future, it’s clear that journalists must adapt to remain relevant and trustworthy in an increasingly digital world. The fusion of technology with traditional journalistic values of accuracy, fairness, and depth will be key to navigating the challenges and seizing the opportunities presented by this new era of journalism.

While technology has undoubtedly transformed journalism, the core essence of journalism — to inform, educate, and empower — remains unchanged. The task ahead is to harness these technological advancements to enhance these core values, ensuring journalism continues to play its vital role in society.

Long Live the Power of Journalism

It’s easy to see journalism as just another form of content creation, pushing more information and insights into the world. However, the reality is journalism plays a massive role in who we are as human beings. The ability to access and consume news in various formats helps us evolve as people and respond to the challenges we face as a species.

Journalism educates, informs, and inspires us, giving us the guidance we need to continue growing towards a brighter future. While the way journalism is delivered may change, the impact of this concept remains consistently strong.