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Journalism is broken. And what to do about it
5 min read

Journalism is broken. And what to do about it

Journalism is broken. And what to do about it

Democracy is built on the idea that citizens understand what is true or false and can penalise/reward people in power to drive change. More knowledgable citizens, better democratic choices. It’s an essential safeguard that should protect the democracy.

That’s why the media/journalism is incredibly important: Publishers, news sites, newspapers and journalists have a critical role to inform us.

I believe journalism is broken and if we believe Edelman trust barometers a lot of people agree.

Meh, what can we do? In this post I will talk about what I believe are the most important dynamics and what you can do to fight:

Google and Facebook are eating journalism resources

Big tech players are awesome at grabbing your attention and are rapidly turning into huge media platforms with unlimited budget (your ad dollars). Newspapers tried to protect and keep as much as they could but were beat by pure scale and technology

This means: Shrinking budgets for (traditional) media.

The decline of budgets in media is real. Pressure on the budget results in less resources for investigative journalism and a real struggle for the sector in general.

In the last 12 months there have been initiatives to create legislation around this. But is it too late ?

Big Tech Has Crushed the News Business. That’s About to Change.
News organizations have long hoped that tech platforms would pay them for news. Now regulators abroad are moving to make that happen.

What you can do ?

  1. Stop getting your news from facebook (#deletefacebook).
  2. Pay for quality journalism (the correspondent, the guardian, ...)

Money over ethics

For me money is the best and worst that happened to us. Money.

Spend an hour looking at CNBC Financial News or read about how Wallstreet works. It makes you realise that most mega corporations exist for a single purpose: serve their stakeholders. That drive for serving stakeholders pressures most companies in money making machines.

Although Google might have started with a strong vision such a ‘index the universe’ today it’s mostly focussed on driving company/stakeholder revenues…

Need some examples of big tech becoming evil? Type some of the below keywords in your favourite search engine (duck duck go anyone?)

More examples

Which Tech Company Is Really the Most Evil?
The 30 most dangerous corporations in the industry, ranked by the people who know.

The fact of the matter is that these mega corps have immense power, and with power comes great... I don’t believe the people at those huge corporations are bad people but the system is broken.

What you can do?

  1. Understand that nothing is free. If it’s free, you are the product!
  2. Change your buying behavior and buy from companies and ethics you trust.
  3. Enforce your GDPR rights.
  4. If you are running a company make sure your company has a defined mission and doesn’t solely exist to make a profit. Making money should not be a company mission.

Too much power

Amazon earnings for 2020 Q1 were 75 billion. Making a quick guesstimate thats a 300 billion/year earnings report. That would put Amazon in front of Chile, Portugal or Denmark's GDP (list of countries by GDRP)

The governments that we have selected are falling behind and have no authority over those mega corporations. Through our current news channels our hearts and minds are getting poisoned with fear giving the institutions the support they need for to take away some of our basic rights and pass more laws to expand their power.

That power has resulted in a twisted power dynamic where companies and politicians no longer fear journalists but call them fake news, remove critical journalists from a press conference, get them fired or ultimately get rid of them.

What you can do?

  1. Stand up for your human rights (avaaz) and participate
  2. Select and vote for politicians that address these (global) challenges
  3. Stop reading panic news. Don’t live in fear. Be nice

Advertising is Broken Model

Maybe the most debated and discussed argument: the ad industry. Billions of dollars are made from mining your personal data and accurately matching buyers with sellers.

To turn on the lights and pay the journalists publishers now have to get their income from ads and commercials. Reader attention has dropped which means less ad dollars.

As a short term fix you will now find more ads, more popups and crap on most common news sites. Open a local/small newspaper and count the number of content pages vs the ads section.

The broken model is a race to the bottom.

And so a destructive cycle began in which decent journalists have been prevented from doing the excellent work that would make the most eloquent case for the craft the world needed.

What you can do:

  1. install an add blocker to not support the old model
  2. Pay for your news (independent media)
  3. Spend less time on useless clickbait/panic news (some apps for that).
  4. If you’re an engineer tune your algorithms for quality and don’t spend time on tricking people into reading crap (clickbait, suggested articles, …)

We don't care. We're busy

This is the one where I wonder if we’ll ultimately make it. It’s so sad to see that a lot of people don’t care.

Everyone is busy dealing with stuff/life. Or we prefer watching Netflix... I don't know.

Snowden revelations, Panama Leaks, Wikileaks, Black Lives Matter… there is enough out there to show that something is seriously twisted with the power dynamics in the western world. You’d expect people to stand up, protest and fight but we don’t.

Can we then fix journalism? Again, I honestly do not know. I do believe that we must reimagine journalism from its core, starting with its only value — an informed and improved society — and rebuilding from there.
A postmortem for journalism — Jeff Jarvis