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The decline of traditional print journalism in a digital age

Since 1690, journalism has been on the decline because of the increase of media shaming, fake news resources and the overarching social distrust in journalism. This trend has negative impacts on both the journalism community and the public the profession aims to inform.

“When it comes to our own jobs and welfare, many have long thrown up their hands,” David Yin said in an article for the Huffington Post. “Some have done so before they even made it through school. Frankly, nobody outside of the industry seems to care.”

The Pew Research Foundation found in 2006 that the number of newspaper employees was at 74,410. In 2018, the number of newspaper employees was at 37,900. In the course of 12 years, there has been a 49% decrease in employment for newspapers.

While this percentage includes the wide spectrum of employment within the world of news, major cuts are being made in print within local news and larger media sources.

“Those of us who have benefited from the shift of power from content consumers to content providers find ourselves in a unique position.”

In 1690, Richard Pierce and Benjamin Harris collaborated on the first American newspaper, titled “Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick.” Although the print consisted of a total of three pages, their first edition marked a turning point in how American journalism was printed and distributed to wider audiences.

Three hundred and twenty-nine years later, news print has slowly been fading away, putting the distribution of local papers in jeopardy. In the world today, there appears to be a constant juggle between what is considered real news and what is considered fake, putting the structures of good and credible journalism at stake. 

“BuzzFeed News laid off a hundred people in 2017; speculation is that BuzzFeed is trying to dump it,” Jill Lepore wrote in an article for the New Yorker. “The Huffington Post paid most of its writers nothing for years, upping that recently to just above nothing, and yet, despite taking in tens of millions of dollars in advertising revenue in 2018, it failed to turn a profit.”

While Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post are well-known news resources, local newspapers are also facing the rise of digital media and a rapidly changing landscape of media consumption.

Some believe that the current rates in which local newspapers are dropping does not signify the death of journalism, but rather a turn in a different direction. There has been a directional shift from print to online sources for news.

For many readers, the most accessible and fast way to take in a news story is through a mobile device. Since the popularity of mobile news reading has grown, there has been a rebranding in the ways news is delivered.

“Journalism is suffering because it’s perceived as ‘free’ and therefore inherently undervalued,” Yin said.

The concept that free news is inherently undervalued can be materialized in the ways readers have turned more to fast news resources like social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. While these social media outlets are utilized to obtain quick headline news, there is a higher possibility of coming across false news stories.

Recently, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that the company will not fact check political advertisement.

“Our policy is that we do not fact-check politicians’ speech,” Zuckerberg said while testifying before Congress. “The reason for that is that we believe that in a democracy it is important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying.”

The fall of local papers could signify dark times to follow. At its current rate, it appears to be unclear how much the erosion of local news and printed news will take before it is a thing of the past.

“This new digital era has sent the practice of journalism into troubled waters,” Dan Redding said in an article for Smashing Magazine. “Those of us who have benefited from the shift of power from content consumers to content providers find ourselves in a unique position. We now have the opportunity to help foster the welfare of that great, guiding principle: the truth.”