Journalism still matters in the digital age

By Jake Mulick

The art of journalism is slowly dying. The influx of stories based around clickbait and sexy headlines that lack any substance at all is killing all credibility in the news industry. It is a shame that so many news organizations are sacrificing proper journalistic ethics and techniques and are becoming sensationalist in nature.

An example of this was the 2006 Duke lacrosse rape case. In 2006, a woman who attended a party at the Duke lacrosse house falsely accused three of the lacrosse players of sexually assaulting her. The media latched onto this story and it received national coverage for almost a year. At the time, newspapers  heavily inferred that the lacrosse players were guilty and plastered the players’ names across the news. These three college students were faced with the negative consequences of having their name attached to a crime that did not happen.

These Duke students will forever be associated with sexual assault because of how much attention this case received. They will forever face the consequences of actions that they never committed because the words “Duke lacrosse” and “rape charges” make for an incredibly appealing headline. The New York Times, which as of 2014 has a circulation of over 1.3 million people, according to niemanlab.org, ran this story almost daily for a little over a year. Because this story was so controversial and appealed to so many demographics, the media fixated on it copiously with a total disregard for whether or not these players actually committed sexual assault.

This example acts almost as a precursor for how journalism is treated today. Nowadays, there are many news outlets, all competing for attention. With the massive rise in popularity for online journalism, many different Websites are competing for attention in a saturated field. News Websites use a strategy of sexy headlines and stories that lack any real substance in order to garner a lot of traffic to their Websites. The notion that pure, intellectual journalism is less important than ratings and views online is what is leading to the death of newspapers and journalism as an art. Websites like theodysseyonline.com exist for the sole purpose of getting as many views online as possible and detracting from any semblance of real, proper journalism.

I understand the fact that a massive amount of revenue for online news publications is from ads and the more traffic that a news Website receives translate into more money the company can make off ads. But the emphasis placed on sexy headlines and stories that are gilded, appearing to be full of relevant information but realistically being full of nonsense, is deplorable. The fact that stories about Kim Kardashian’s wardrobe and what it’s like to be a freshman in college will get more attention than topics like international politics and economics and real life issues is reprehensible.

In my opinion, Donald Trump would not even be a realistic Republican candidate for president if newspapers chose to focus on his policies and his lack of political experience. Instead, many news organizations focus on the absurd quotes from his speeches, which brings in heavy traffic on the Internet. If Trump was not able to gain mass media attention for his bizarre antics and phrasing, I would be skeptical if he would have been able to remain a contender for the highest office in the United States. The movement away from proper, well thought out journalism and the transition to big headlines for stories that are essentially full of garbage acts as a vehicle for articles that lacks any real substance. The end product of these practices is that people are informed about news by the same means that teenagers find out about boy bands.

As consumers, we can choose not to be absorbed by the hype that surrounds events. We are the only ones who can choose to read the New York Times and listen to National Public Radio instead of relying on the pop-up notifications that appear on our iPhones. It is paramount that news organizations begin to reward proper writing and journalism instead of clickbait and attention grabbing stories that lack any real substance. We must help to reform what is going on in the news industry so that events, such as the media circus around three innocent men accused of rape, don’t repeat themselves. It is our job to advocate for proper journalism and to not fall for the clickbait, attention grabbing headlines that some in the contemporary media try to sell.

Students share opinions around campus

Does professional journalism still matter?

Tom Franey, sophomore finance major.
Tom Franey, sophomore finance major.

“I think it’s less professional (than it once was)… I think the media is more powerful than it has ever been.”

Evan Abernethy, junior biology major.
Evan Abernethy, junior biology major.

“No, because you still need people to go out and talk to people (and investigate).”