Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 10, 1445 H
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Quality journalism and why it matters...


Journalism has been a discipline of relevance to society, and impartiality has been at its core. The truth is that there is less of journalism nowadays. The traditional notions of journalistic objectivity are under pressure from authoritarianism, populism and fake news.

Besides, Covid-19 has affected news reporting with a plethora of misinformation and disinformation from both reliable and non-reliable sources. On the other hand, the pandemic accelerated the news media organisations process of digital transition — with social networking sites at the top of choice from where people get their information.

In ‘The Future of Journalism’ report, Mark Scott, an Australian former media executive, wrote that for those who care about quality journalism it is important to preserve the social benefits good journalism has delivered in the past, and that can deliver in the future.

Let’s face it, quality journalism needs skilled people. Good journalism helps people make important decisions about their lives; it helps civil society. However, other perspectives support the idea that with the Internet freely available to spread information, trained skilled professionals are no longer needed.

Technology and social media are now the dominant players as news business models. Twitter for example is now a tool for breaking news reporting, news-gathering, and a normalised professional practice — but the writers are not skilled storytellers — which is one of the most effective skills needed in the media.

With newsrooms moving on into new platforms, and new models of controlled news, organisations are investing in IT people rather than journalists. Beautifully well-designed news websites and social platforms are loaded with material from press conferences, controlled news content, and announcements.

As Gaven Morris noted in ‘The Future of Journalism’ report, “a hungry digital beast demand constant content, more deadlines, more mediums, and different versions for niche audiences.” In search for engagement, the beast found its bliss in a well-oiled spin industry. The attention-grabbing algorithms underlying social media contribute to sow confusion, ignorance and ultimately manipulation. In this scenario, it must be added that poor quality reporting is not only a disservice to society but also contributes to misunderstandings.

Within the bleak picture, there are concerns such as the monopoly control of news content; the failure to meet public benefit; and the erosion of journalistic capacity and quality. These not only discredit quality journalism but open doors to allow social media the opportunity to have too much influence on important social and political issues.

It was once assumed that social networking platforms would enable greater access to information and civil society empowerment. However, it has increasingly been perceived that social media is in reality proving to be among the most effective enablers to authoritarianism. The list of scrutiny can range from the type of articles a consumer reads, the type of stories shared, the click of likes on social media content: the readers’ opinions, relationships, and who is searching for what. Though platforms encourage trust and intimacy, individuals and journalists can fall prey to cybersecurity laws just by commenting on news and public posts.

The complexity of journalism, and information, points to a need to develop systems of public education. It is crucial to cultivate media literacy, social media literacy, ethics and tolerance to different opinions. The tasks are enormous, yet necessary — that is, if a desire to have a well informed and participatory society is there.

How communities can exist and prosper without relevant reliable information? Some people still favour the idea of neutral and objective journalism, and there are others who prefer news that shares their point of view. With the challenges of the digital age, it is important that public service journalism based on quality, transparency, and ethical approach can help people better understand the world they exist.

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