A Crippling Combination; how business and technology are killing journalism
by Bhask2 on April 13, 2014 - 7:33pm
In his article, Convergence: News Production in a Digital Age, Eric Klinenberg discusses his research into the ways the news media industry has changed since the advent of digital technology. (Klinenberg, 2005) . He focuses on the effects that emerging digital technologies and the application of modern corporate convergence strategies have had on individual journalists, the journalistic profession as a whole, and the way news corporations are structured and managed. Klinenberg uses in-depth field observations of a single company, Metro News, as the basis for this research article, as well as information from more than 30 academic works. Modern business tactics have led to the creation of large media conglomerates, as town newspapers and local television stations are either bought out or undercut by competition. As many of the companies grew larger, including Metro News, they raised funds by offering publicly traded stock, allowing them to grow even more swiftly and buy out more of their local competitors. From that point forward, the large companies were beholden to the profit demands of stock holders, and overall earnings became more important than journalistic integrity. corporate managers “streamlined” the workforce, “laying off” large numbers of journalists and requiring the remaining employees to fulfill the duties of multiple individuals. All of these are serious problems, Klinenberg assures readers, and they would have been cause for concern regardless, but the advent of digitalization intensified the issues dramatically. With faster communications technology, vast news networks could be overseen from a single headquarters, allowing for further streamlining of the staff and more intense, less individualized micromanaging. At the same time, with more methods of presentation, including television and the internet, the number of tasks that each journalist must perform has increased exponentially, further decreasing the amount of time they have available to work on any given story. Whereas journalists were once forced to write articles for the lowest common denominator in order to maximize profits, now they simply do not have time to write at a higher level, regardless of their intentions. The increased workload and lack of commensurate compensation, along with little allowance for journalistic individuality or integrity, has reduced the profession to a terrifying state. The occupation is now consistently ranked at or near the bottom on a majority of popularity opinion polls. Eric Klinenberg shows that these massive media conglomerates are trying to squeeze every possible cent out of the news industry, and in the process they are changing the journalistic profession into demanding, low-compensation menial labor occupation.
If the implications of Eric Klinenberg’s research are fully considered, they paint a bleak picture. News Journalism was once a prestigious and highly respected profession, combining the best and brightest writers with skillful interviewers and high work standards for writing and integrity. If the current trend of maximizing profit continues, however, news journalism will be a profession for those who are willing to work long hours for little pay. Klinenberg has shown that journalism is already one of the least popular professions, after all. It might just be possible that the actual writing could be outsourced to nations with lower labor costs, as so many other industries are doing, leaving only the corporate headquarters and actual interviewers in the United States. How sad a future that would be; local, regional, and national news being written outside of the country, by people who speak English as a second or third language, all to save on labor costs. The negative impacts of these media empires don’t end there, unfortunately. The news media that is produced today would not be considered news by anyone who was alive before 1950. The industry is dominated by talking points, with every station recycling the work of their competitors without adding any value. The industry scrutinizes the every action of celebrities because they are popular, and that association with popularity increases sales. Every station is polarized along political lines, vehemently attacking the opposing party and supporting the party of their corporate owner’s political agenda, regardless of factual evidence. Corporations often pull stories from broadcasts if they conflict too intensely with the party platform, refusing to report on what is actually happening in its entirety. There is a reason that political scientists consider the news organization a political institution. It is the news industry we, the general public, rely on to inform us of the actions of politicians, they are the governments’ watchdogs. When a politician commits a crime, we rely upon the news industry to keep us accurately and reliably informed. When a momentous political decision is broached and decided, the public trusts the news industry to provide up to date information. Above all, the public requires unbiased political reporting, so that decisions can be made based upon the facts, rather than upon a skewed representation of reality that skirts the boundary between bending the truth and outright fallacy. The current news industry is impeding political discussion, cooperation, and progress. This being the case, every individual in the United States is now less able to make an informed political decision than they would once have been. The “news” media industry has become simply one more way for corporate businessmen to increase profits and their overall control of the political environment in the United States and around the world. It might still be considered media, but do not insult the true journalists of the past by calling it news.
Klinenberg, E. (2005). Convergence: News production in a digital age. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 597, 48-64. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy2.drake.brockport.edu/stable/25046061