Journalism changing, but never dead

Brianna Wilson

COPY EDITOR

When I tell people I’m majoring in English, their immediate response is to ask: ‘Do you want to be a teacher?’ and my answer has always been: ‘No, I would actually like to be a journalist.’ They’re either shocked and interested because few people choose journalism as a career interest early on, or they begin to tell me all the reasons I shouldn’t become a journalist (there aren’t enough job opportunities; it doesn’t pay well; the field is dying out; most news sources have moved to online platforms, etc.) — as if I hadn’t considered all those reasons before. I’ve been wanting to pursue a career in journalism for over ten years, and I’ve found that people persistently believe this career choice is going to die out as we move further into the internet ages.

That hasn’t happened; journalism is still as important as ever. I’ve been saying it since I was young: there will always be a need for people to seek out and deliver news and other important types of media. However, since the Buzzfeed layoffs and various other digital media outlets firing employees this year, the uproar of people chanting “journalism is dead!” has only gotten louder and more persistent. I continue to disagree with them.

From what I’ve gathered, the majority of the people raving about Buzzfeed’s layoffs are claiming that digital media as a whole is dying out, but digital media itself includes much more than what Buzzfeed produces, but, moreover,  I don’t think digital media is what they mean to reference at all. A few who looked into the Buzzfeed layoffs found that the majority of the staff members fired were journalists, and I believe that is why many people are referring to the “dying out” digital media when they are referencing journalism.

However, in this case, too, I can apply the same opinion: there’s much more to journalism than Buzzfeed. Journalism is often closely related to serious and factual news, and Buzzfeed does not produce much besides analyses of the lives of celebrities (and these are often uncredible rumors anyhow). Although they do have a very respectable investigative journalism team, Buzzfeed is still not a source that many go to for credible journalistic content. Buzzfeed consists almost entirely of personal entertainment — in the form of playful quizzes and relatable videos — and celebrity gossip that has nothing to do with pressing issues, such as political topics and international news. I personally link journalism closely with worldwide events and global connections because that is the field I want to explore; Buzzfeed has nothing to do with this. To say that journalism as a whole is dying out because of Buzzfeed is a big claim, and an incorrect one in my opinion.

In researching the Buzzfeed layoffs, I found out that Gannett, another media company that is partnered with hundreds of newspapers nationwide, laid off over 400 employees on the same day Buzzfeed announced their plans for firing a number of staff members. This only brought up more concern that journalism is dying out, but I still disagree. Granted, we have moved into an age of fluctuating job opportunities in the field of journalism, but to say one can no longer prosper in this field would be a stretch. From what I can tell, these layoffs have more to do with competition than anything. There have been hordes of online media, news, and entertainment outlets building over the years, and now there are too many, it seems. Money from consumers is being thrown every which way and may no longer allow for any one or few sources to prosper. Being a journalist in a time of fluctuating career opportunities is scary, and uncertain; I won’t argue with that. However, I don’t think these should intimidate anyone out of choosing journalism as a career, as I don’t think there will ever come a time that journalists have little to no opportunities for work left.

Something in particular that has people worrying about the downfall of journalism is the fact that much news is now produced and viewed primarily as user-generated content because of social media. Many of my friends and family rely on social media for their news, and I know this must be the case for countless others, as well. I believe, though, that journalists can and will easily integrate themselves and their work into these social media sites in order to bring credible and researched news, and they will easily be connected to a larger audience because of the various popular platforms that consumers use.

The Buzzfeed news room refuses to rest.  COURTESY OF  DAILY BEAST

The Buzzfeed news room refuses to rest. COURTESY OF DAILY BEAST

Rather than having died out, journalism has drastically changed. Much of the news we read (namely from the social media sites that continue to grow in popularity) isn’t credible anymore because so much of it is based upon hearsay and spreads like wildfire before anyone can truly confirm anything, and this is where people gather the idea that journalism is dying out. It’s true that proper, factual journalism is scarce, but that can still be changed. Our generation can replace the onslaught of journalists that don’t do their research and spend too much time on social media reading each other’s exaggerated headlines and taking information from the users, assuming what is being spread is credible enough to continue spreading. We simply can’t fall into this loop of fake or exaggerated news.

Is this cut in Buzzfeed staff a reflection of what could happen to all sources of online media produced by journalists? No, absolutely not. Buzzfeed, granted, is a huge source of digital media and opportunities for journalists, but this large cut of their employees isn’t a predictor of what will happen to all media businesses. Just because big influences die out doesn’t mean that the product itself has to go with it. Does the popularity of or opportunity to produce music dwindle down when important and influential artists die? No. If anything, I believe this sudden onslaught of layoffs is a hiccup in the digital news and media department and an inspiration for journalists to find other platforms to entertain. Nearly everything is online now; you can order cars online. Where else are people going to turn for their news and entertainment?

Journalism and digital media will still prosper without opportunities from Buzzfeed, and I have plenty of faith that digital media outlets will find a balance and be able to hire back plenty of journalists in the future.