Journalism is at a turning point. The rise of the New Media has given countless people around the world the chance to become journalists, no qualifications necessary. The only requirements are a computer with Internet access and the shred of an idea. While not every newly-minted journalist will provide the type of content a major news network or newspaper might require of its employees, every voice helps to spread ideas and stimulate discussion. With basic fact-checking made simple by Internet search, anyone can actively contribute to the news by pointing to facts that had been forgotten. These two most basic of functions, spreading and refining the news, provide the foundation on which the New Media is built. Every node in the network adds to its total quality, while the ease of entry into the network ensures that there are plenty of nodes. With this backbone in place, the New Media as a whole can truly excel. Not every blogger or Internet journalist stops at spreading and refining the news. Some generate it with their personal experiences or expertise. Others have the resources to launch more thorough investigations, deeper than a passive Internet search. Outposts of organized journalism emerge, collecting some of the brightest lights under one banner. Never has it been easier to find the news you wish to find, and never has it been more difficult for a single entity to control the narrative in whole.
The system is subject to the drawbacks one would expect when opening the microphone to millions of individuals at once. Pointless bickering, partisan spin, and outright misinformation are rampant throughout the system, but the result is a system that contains the truth. Bickering serves a point as a testing ground for arguments and ideas. Spin reveals the truth when enough voices add their own interpretations. Misinformation yields information when corrected. From chaos, order arises. The New Media is crowdsourcing at its most potent. The major flaws of traditional media stem from its centralized nature. At most, only a few major sources of information are available. Stories are relatively easy to control, and simple silence can squash even the most condemning of scandal. At the same time, centralization provides certain strengths that have allowed the legacy media to thrive. Large news outlets are offered special privileges not available to the general public, such as access to press conferences and coverage of exclusive events. They provide a reliable access point for politicians and celebrities, as they guarantee an audience and consistent quality of coverage. For these reasons, some form of large news outlets will always be a part of the media landscape. The question is what form they take and how they relate to the public and more democratic forms of media.
The reason print newspapers appear to be dying is not because of their physical format as is commonly believed. There are still people who prefer a newspaper to a computer screen for their morning headlines, and the newspaper has the advantage of being portable, disposable, and cheap. A newspaper has no load time, requires no Internet connection, and can be shared with a coworker or family member without fumbling around with hyperlinks. Whether technology advances to contest even these basic advantages is a , but for the time being, the newspaper remains a sound format inasmuch as the news it carries is worth reading. Herein lies the crux of the problem. Print news now faces competition from the Internet, and readers seem willing to abandon a floundering newspaper if they can find their news elsewhere. The print format provides certain advantages, but these can only be exploited when the newspaper is a polished, finished product, worth the paper it was printed on. Newspapers can no longer get by without publishing worthwhile content. They suffer in inverse proportion to their quality, and unless those that are suffering step up their game, they will continue to bleed readers to other news sources.
The differentiating factor, then, is quality. Legacy media institutions now face a minimum standard of quality they must keep in order to retain their advantages over the emerging media of the Internet. Factual errors, buried stories, and smear attacks decrease the credibility of these institutions. Once these smirches fully obscure whatever once held value in the media outlet, viewers will look to other sources for their news. The shared monopoly of print and network media has been turned into a free market, with competitors coming from all corners of the Internet. And ultimately this will increase the quality of the news, either through the revitalization of the legacy media or through the rise of its competition from below. That’s the beauty of the New Media: its legacy counterpart can only remain dominant by bettering itself. The truth will out. In time we will know who will tell it to us.