Once a week I am required to read an issue in “Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Mass Media and Society” for my J150 online class. This week I was supposed to post an argument stating what force I think is having the most impact on daily journalism and explain why I think so. I don’t know particularly why, but I really got into it this week. Maybe it’s because I’m really starting to get into this journalism thing. As a result, my discussion post turned into a real beast. And, since I’ve been in the habit lately of posting things I’ve written outside of myspace, I thought I’d add this as well. You don’t have to read it, but thank you if you do.

“Before I go and declare which force I think is having the most impact on the Newsroom today, I feel it is important to restate this fact: Journalism as we know it is going through a lot of changes, or an epochal transformation as the Project for Excellence in Journalism calls it. Journalism is becoming a more and more complex field and role in the media than ever before. This is due to many different forces, some of which are discussed and researched in great detail in both essays (Sutter and The Project for Excellence in Journalism)– content, economics, ownership, and news investment.

I, however, believe that the most influential force on journalism today is economical. But, Im not going to start regurgitating evidence of the connections between liberal bias in journalism and the economy as Sutter mainly devotes to his argument. Im going to point out the underlying impact economy has over the before mentioned forces (content, ownership, and news investment), and how the economic circumstances of each force are affected by the declining trust the public has for journalism.

The media, in terms of content, have been shifting the emphasis from hard news (politics, economics, topics with a sense of urgency) to more soft news coverage (stories that are more entertainment-infused, sensationalized, and interpretive), and more lenience in allowance for personal style in stories. The Newsroom puts emphasis on soft news because the public shows greater interest towards those kinds of stories– not many readers are actually interested in politics. However, this change in content emphasis has led the public to believe that journalists are backing away from the more-important news coverage (hard news) and weakening the public defense against a corrupt government; that journalists are giving up their role as the watchdog for society.

Speed is also being emphasized more in journalism today, as the public wants the most recent information on events as quickly as possible. This is illustrated by the growing trend of online journalism. However, a gain in speed results in the loss of content and in quality. The information put on the Web is increasingly raw. Journalists dont have as much time to gather information and synthesize the facts into a well thought out and well written story. As a result (from more emphasis on soft news, style, and speed), trust diminishes in the public eye. Without trust and without an audience, profits are down and the Newsroom suffers.

No longer does the media have the ownership diversity it once knew. More and more media corporations control large percentages of the media circulation. Why is this a popular trend? The reason, although it could be to improve the quality of journalism, is most likely economical. Media corporations exercise more power over the product being produced for the public (the newspaper, etc.). It is much easier for media owners to conduct business with advertisers on the corporate level. Corporations are focusing on making a bigger profit. As Sutter stated, it is more likely for big businesses to set profit goals than political goals. The public does not trust this move, however. To some, it seems as though the Newsroom is focusing too much on being a business and reaping profits than informing the public.

Though ownership is increasing, news investment in the epochal transformation is declining. The number of people seeking employment in the journalism field is not what it used to be. With the number of employees down, the workload has been up. The Project for Excellence in Journalism reported that the workload for journalists has increased by 30 percent in the last decade, and continues by saying ‘these facts suggest a difficult environment–more pressure on people, less time to report stories and more reliance on technology, syndicated material and synthesizing second-hand information’ (308). Consequences arise when too much stress is put on journalists: Their quality in work goes down. Quality loss equals audience loss. Economically, the Newsroom won’t be able to handle the declining investment in newsgathering if this trend continues.

With all of the changes going on in journalism, a battle is stirring between public trust and the economic circumstances that keep the Newsroom in business.

-Sara Bruestle”