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May 26, 2014 / brockportsociology

A Crippling Combination: How Business and Technology are Killing Journalism

The news industry has changed significantly over the past few decades, and not necessarily for the better. With the emergence of digital technology and modern business strategies, the situation has improved only for the CEO’s, while journalists are being sucked dry.

ImageBy: Benjamin Haskell*

In his article, “Convergence: News Production in a Digital Age,” Eric Klinenberg (2005) discusses his research into the ways the news media industry has changed since the advent of digital technology. He uses in-depth field observation of the company Metro News to analyze the effects that emerging digital technologies and the application of modern corporate convergence strategies have had on individual journalists, the journalistic profession as a whole, and the way news corporations are structured and managed.

ImageKlinenberg discusses the ways that modern business tactics have led to the creation of large media conglomerates, as town newspapers and local television stations are either bought out or undercut by competition. As many of the companies grew larger, including Metro News, they raised funds by offering publicly traded stock, allowing them to grow even more swiftly and buy out more of their local competitors. From that point forward, the large companies were beholden to the profit demands of stockholders, and overall earnings became more important than journalistic integrity. Corporate managers “streamlined” the workforce, “laying off” large numbers of journalists and requiring the remaining employees to fulfill the duties of multiple individuals. All of these are serious problems, Klinenberg assures readers, and they would have been cause for concern regardless, but the advent of digitization intensified the issues dramatically.

With faster communications technology, vast news networks could be overseen from a single headquarters, allowing for further streamlining of the staff and more intense, less individualized micromanaging. At the same time, with more methods of presentation, including television and the internet, the number of tasks that each journalist must perform has increased exponentially, further decreasing the amount of time they have available to work on any given story. The increased workload and lack of commensurate compensation, along with little allowance for journalistic individuality or integrity, has reduced the profession to a terrifying state. The occupation is now consistently ranked at or near the bottom on a majority of popularity opinion polls. Eric Klinenberg shows that these massive media conglomerates are trying to squeeze every possible cent out of the news industry, and in the process they are changing the journalistic profession into demanding, low-compensation menial labor occupation.

If the implications of Eric Klinenberg’s research are fully considered, they paint a bleak picture. News journalism was once a prestigious and highly respected profession, combining the best and brightest writers with skillful interviewers and high work standards for writing and integrity. If the current trend of maximizing profit continues, however, news journalism will be a profession for those who are willing to work long hours for little pay. Also, there are political ramifications to this shift in journalism. The industry is dominated by talking points, with every station recycling the work of their competitors without adding much value. The industry scrutinizes the every action of celebrities because they are popular, and that association with popularity increases sales. Stations are often polarized along political lines, vehemently attacking the opposing party and supporting the party of their corporate owner’s political agenda, regardless of factual evidence. Corporations sometimes pull stories from broadcasts if they conflict too intensely with the party platform, refusing to report on what is actually happening in its entirety. There is a reason that political scientists consider the news organization a political institution, as it is the news industry that the general public relies on to inform us of political issues. The public requires unbiased political reporting so that decisions can be made based upon the facts, rather than upon a skewed representation of reality driven by profit and corporate interests.

Reference

Klinenberg, E (2005).”Convergence: News Production in a Digital Age.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 597(1), 48-64.

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*Benjamin Haskell is a freshman in the Honors Program at The College at Brockport. He is majoring in both Communications (Electronic and Print Journalism) and Sociology. After graduation, he wants to write for a prominent newspaper or magazine, such as the BBC, on the subject of new and groundbreaking technology. This post was originally submitted in Dr. Eric Kaldor’s Introduction to Sociology course (SOC100) in the spring 2014 semester.

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