Contemporary Journalism & Its Role in Society

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  • 00:00 What Is Journalism?
  • 1:47 Online Journalism
  • 3:13 Contemporary Journalism's Role
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

Journalism is a part of our culture. As online publication grows in popularity, the contemporary journalist's role in society has changed. In this lesson, we will discuss how print journalism declined and the new role of online journalism.

What is Journalism?

For centuries now, people have depended on journalism for news and entertainment. For many of us, we begin our day by opening a newspaper, magazine, or logging online to our favorite web pages. We read the latest news stories, skim through the opinion pieces, share articles with each other, and offer our own opinion. Journalism, the profession of writing for newspapers, has become a part of our culture.

As early as the 18th century, journalism played a role in America. In its earlier stages, journalists were able to control politicians and elections through their articles and opinions. As technology advanced in the 19th century and more newspapers were produced, this control turned to sensationalism. The more sensational and gruesome a crime or controversy, the more newspapers would sell. No longer just dependent on national newspapers, states and cities began to also produce their own.

Newspapers were now cheaper to produce and sold much faster. Just like today, people of the late 19th and early 20th century, loved a good story. However, as the 20th century began to come to a close, there was a change to journalism- the Internet. With the development of the Internet, people no longer depended on newspapers alone for the news. It was much easier and quicker to access news online. As newspaper sales declined and some papers closed permanently, many journalists were forced to make a transition to online journalism.

How is online journalism different than print journalism? What is the role of contemporary journalism in today's society? In this lesson, we will answer these two questions.

Online Journalism

While it may be hard for us to imagine, there was a time that 24-hour news did not exist. People depended on the morning newspaper for the current news stories. As television became more accessible, it was faster for news programs to update but it was not yet as quick as the world we now know.

By the late 90s, Internet was becoming more common. As part of this, many newspapers began to offer an online version of their publication. However, the online version was not unique or any different than the print version, they simply put the articles on their web pages. As the Internet grew in popularity, some news organizations like AOL or Yahoo, began to develop their own web pages just for news. They changed the layout, created links, added a comment section, and developed articles just for online publication.

By the 2000s, newspaper sales declined and online journalism became the popular way to read the news. Advertisers began to use the online publications more, which helped in their growth. Not just that, but people like the news online. Not only was it faster to access and updated by the minute, but they were also able to talk to each other, share their opinion, and now even share their articles faster. There could be a whole message board devoted just to one article. With the support of the readers and the advertisers, many newspapers can now survive just online.

Contemporary Journalism's Role

Even with the shift to online journalism, the role of journalism has stayed the same. Journalists gather and report the news. However, the Internet has changed what we, the audience, may expect from journalists. With online journalism, an almost friendship-like relationship can develop between the audience and the writer. We are able to chat with the writer, ask questions, and leave comments. This friendship often leads to a higher level of expectation.

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