The Digital Battlefield of News Production

C. Barbou, C. Barrios, I. Bobicev, D. Gryllou, A. Jareno, F. Mamic

Digitization has revealed a whole new world in the media industry: traditional print media, such as world famous newspapers like the Guardian, NY Times, Le Monde or popular magazines like National Geographic, Cosmopolitan and many others, are moving towards digital. As a result, the information we are receiving from all around the globe is instant, live and real…or maybe not?

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We witness the emergence of new practices and actors in the news industry: citizen journalism, digital news, aggregation platforms, and of course, the growing influence of social media as new players in the field. Incumbents of the industry struggle to retain control, while new entrants gain increasing popularity.

Major digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are becoming number one sources of news media and the audience, especially young adults, tend to trust social media more than traditional news media. According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, with the release of its report, ‘Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions 2018’  in October 2017, the Hashtag #MeToo, became a rallying cry against sexual assault and harassment after a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano, one of Harvey Weinstein’s most vocal critics. Within 24 hours, 4.7 million people around the world engaged in the conversation, according to Facebook, with over 12 million posts, comments, and reactions. The movement has also inspired hashtags used by men, including #IDidThat and #HowIWillChange, in which men have admitted inappropriate behavior.

On the other hand, ‘Fake news’, the Collins dictionary phrase of the year in 2017, is revealing the threats of the Digital Era. The UK parliament is investigating whether ‘fake news’ shared on Facebook and Twitter, influenced the Brexit Referendum and in the US, Facebook officials disclosed that they had shut down several hundred accounts that they believe were created by a Russian company linked to the Kremlin and used to buy $100,000 in ads pushing divisive issues during and after the American election campaign of 2016.

An alternative approach to Journalism

Ulrik Haagerup, Executive Director at Danish Broadcasting Corporation talks about the tabloidization, sensationalism and excessive negativity in the news today. He argues that it disengages audiences, causing them to turn to platforms like Facebook, where they can ‘see a world they like more’. He stresses that it creates apathy, as people ‘kill time instead of engaging with society’.

To combat these effects, the Constructive Journalism initiative pioneers a positive approach to news coverage, not only analyzing problems but also exploring potential solutions. It’s about trying to examine what’s going right in the world – and why – rather than focusing purely on what’s going wrong. People don’t want more news, they want better news. Constructive journalism provides an alternative.

The Rise of Digital Platforms

The destabilization of traditional news media starts to reflect on industry revenues, as well as on decreasing quality of content and degradation of journalistic practices. Google’s Digital News Initiative is a project aimed to encourage collaboration between digital platforms and newsrooms. The initiative claims to promote high-quality reporting and facilitate modernization by providing resources for newsrooms and journalists. However, some believe that the company is pursuing its own agenda, trying to enter the European news ecosystem by presenting itself as a powerful partner, offering funding and technical know-how. Might this be an attempt to retain a dominant position and boost advertising revenue?

Another powerful player aiming to enter the news field is Facebook. As an attempt of establishing a more consistent relation with the incumbents of the field it engaged in a cooperation project with the European Journalism Center, offering tools and resources to protect journalists on social media.

Concerns have been raised about digital platforms narrowing people’s agenda, by providing algorithmically selected news according to their interests, creating the ‘filter bubble’. At the same time, these companies make use of the vast amounts of information users provide to them to target advertising, leaving other news outlets out of the competition. As a consequence, they are not only jeopardizing the quality and diversity of information the audiences receive, but also economically impairing the outlets that produce the news. This poses serious threats to journalism as we know it and raises multiple questions about the authority and legitimacy of the new actors seriously disrupting the news industry.

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News sources used in European countries in 2017

Future prospects on the battlefield

Undoubtedly, the fast-paced technological evolution has a complex impact on communication and information flows. How will the EU authorities manage to stabilize the current state of the news industry and attempt to level the playing field for different outlets remains an open debate. Will new regulatory solutions successfully address these issues and reinvest the power to newspapers and independent journalism?

Do you believe, we, as an audience, have a role in re-establishing original reporting and quality news production? Share your ideas with us by commenting on how we can promote democratic values and protect our interests as citizens in the digital era!

 

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