Why this is a golden age of journalism

Don’t listen to the reactionaries and don’t listen to (many of) the journalists themselves: today is a golden age for journalism and we should be happy about it. There has been a broadly successful transition for most newspapers from print to being online when it comes to maintaining readership and more newspaper articles are read than ever before. Yes, none of the newspapers are making money yet from the internet. But newspapers have nearly always been funded by a combination of patronage, advertising and consumer fees and we are now just in a transition phase. There has always been censorship in newspapers, and whether it is dictated by the patrons, advertisers or the consumers, the internet will probably do little to change that balance.

No-one in our age group seems to buy newspapers, or to have ever really bought newspapers, certainly not daily, but everyone now reads newspapers online. Engagement with newspapers among young people is more thorough now that it was. And through social media more articles are being read, shared and discussed than ever before. Editors exercise the same influence in selecting and prioritising content as they always did, only now it is not by choosing which page the scoop goes on, but how often and where it is posted with social media.

It is also better for journalism, a medium that until recently was relatively transient, that everything is now archived and easily accessible to everyone (bar the incoming threat of pay-walls). Analysing attitudes over a time period, or tracing media bias, is now far easier. This rise in public discussion of articles also seems to be positively affecting student activism. The ability to discuss or share articles that portray or react to events that are important to certain causes means that journalism is as close now to the centre of political and social developments in the public consciousness as it ever was. The difference now is that the media is under more scrutiny than ever and factual errors and heinous insults are more quickly outed. We can hope then that newspapers working with activists, or rather activists working through andagainst newspapers, might play a broadly progressive role

A widely spread fear exists that the internet will simply splitter into endless erroneous blogs. But the popularity of websites which provide a variety of content from different authors still seems to be vastly higher than any blogs belonging only to an individual. Clive Martin writes for Vice, Guido Fawkes writes a column for the Sun. Even the most successful individual blogs or most idiosyncratic writers want to work with traditional collective news platforms.

The troubling form of employment in the industry is a problem. Even senior journalists seem to struggle to earn enough. Only two equally blind hopes seem to combat this negative image of the state of affairs. The first is that the current impasse on the profit side of newspapers is overcome as a new balance is found, hopefully one that does not involve Paywalls but more lucrative advertising. The second is that a different culture of journalism develops, a journalism where most people work as journalists outside of their times spent doing other jobs, a bit like students working for student newspapers. Journalist and activist, journalist and lecturer, journalist and social worker, maybe that will be the new professional journalist of the future. This does not mean that established journalists have the right to pull the ladder up beneath them by not offering any employment schemes, nor should they offer internships that do not assist those without financial support or who do not live in London. That is a kind of professional self harm.

There is much nostalgia for newspapers that used to come out daily as if the world was somehow slower before. Of course even then there were morning and evening papers, telegrams etc. But the real point is that newspapers have always been connected to delivering news speedily. Journal comes from jour, they were out as quickly as possible. This increased speed of delivery of news content is another positive element in the world of journalism, one that builds its popularity and increases demand. 24 hour news should create three times more jobs.

Oxford is an example of this golden age of journalism. We have three substantial and interesting student news outlets that deliver daily content, news broadcasting sites, magazines (some connected to activism networks), all of which interact with themselves and with a fair share of the student body. They also influence our student politics, with the Tab recently notably claiming they crowned Trup. Journalism is going through a financially rough time, but money aside, this may be the start of a golden age. And it’s our responsibility to be optimistic, as we student journalists might well be the journalists of the future, in whatever guise journalism then takes.