Commentary: Changing Times: Is Traditional Journalism and Hard News on its Way Out?

Saturday, 29 August 2009 22:04 Written by  Sydney Corryn

When TMZ, a Canadian celebrity gossip website, was the first to announce the death of music legend Michael Jackson, many wondered where were the traditional journalism outlets to report this great tragedy.

tmz Over the past few years, and more so since the economy started to decline, outlets like newspapers, radio and television news have begun seeing a shift in interest. Nowadays, reporting is more relaxed and "easy." Tools like the internet, blogging, Twitter and Facebook, and new technologies that allow people to take photos and record video from their phones are allowing citizens all over to become reporters. What happened to weeks of investigation from the reporters and writers who would lose countless hours of sleep for the sake of accuracy?

The economic decline has shaped the face of reporting, writing and media. Unemployed writers and reporters have changed their route to freelancing. Freelancing is not a traditional office job; it allows a journalist to work independently and on temporary contracts rather than for a long-term employer. Though the steady paycheck may not be evident, some like Rosie Birkett said, “I decide what time I get up, what time I finish and what time I lunch. Freelancing also releases you, to some extent, from the bureaucracy and politics of the office. This could be the future for the writers, editors and reporters who are being laid off.” fb

Another stab to the profession is the sudden loss of advertising. Advertising is one of the three legs publications stand on (in addition to editorial content and circulation). Companies pay thousands to advertise their businesses in newspapers, magazine and on TV. The internet is rapidly becoming their main source of advertising, leaving most publications (mainly newspapers) in a financial slump. Add to that the fact that most readers are getting their news online; you don’t pay to read news on the internet. As a result, news outlets are forced to slice their budgets. Without the heavy advertising, the money is decreasing by the millions.

“The problem newspaper industry execs have is that...lucrative print ad sales have been melting away, and online ad revenues don't come close to making up for the losses. Classified ad revenue has died, and job ads have fled. If we're really in a recession, ad revenue figures will get even worse this year. Newspaper after newspaper are reporting tough times, and many are beginning to make fundamental changes in their operations,” said art journalist Douglas McLennan.

It is no secret that print media companies are cutting their staffs in half. Less staff results in more work for less people. Jobs are being cut in half. In addition, less focus is being given to the more crucial news events and some newspapers no longer have the hefty budgets to send their reporters across the world.

 Another thing that has changed journalism dramatically is the process of reporting. Blogging is now being considered hard news and camera phones are capturing key moments, such as Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps getting high at a college party last year. Anyone can easily snap a photo, create a blog and have a news story.

Hard-core reporting is no longer required for a headline or newsworthy story. Neither is important content. The world has become obsessed with the lives of the rich and famous. Celebrity gossip magazines STAR, People, US Weekly and OK! Magazine fill the checkout lines at grocery stores and shopping centers across the country. Their downfalls, tragedies and triumphs grace the television and magazine covers more than the war in Iraq.

As long as readers continue to read these types of magazines, writers will continue to write the "popular" articles. As citizens, if the importance of strangers is valued more than the fragile lives of soldiers, welfare of children and peace among nation, then there is a problem. If this cultural shift grows, real news will take a backseat.

Sydney Corryn

Sydney Corryn

Sydney Corryn is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in journalism. Her interests range from socioeconomic problems, culture, traveling, dysfunctional political campaigns, and of course, Chicago's nightlife. She hopes to use her communication skills and passion for community issues to create a career for herself.  She will be teaching English in Chile for six months starting the end of June, 2012.

Sydney can be contacted at Sydney@glossmagazineonline or