NOTE: In order to better understand all the ideas presented within this blog, I encourage you to first read the book: Renegades of Disruption: How To Overcome Humanity's Overwhelming Resistance To Change & New Ideas.
You can download a free PDF version with this link:
You can also order a physical copy of the book here:
Communication & The Fall of Journalism (Episode 31)
In this section, we are discussing how Journalism is a hollow shell of its former glory. Even without providing any sources, I doubt most readers would find this notion difficult to believe. It has never been so difficult to determine the reliability of sources and stories. In this section, we will briefly discuss exactly what role Journalism plays in our world, how it has become compromised to this level, and how this is having profound impacts throughout our entire world. Really, I could easily write an entire book on the Fall of Journalism alone.
What is the role of Journalism in our world?
As we discuss later in this Research Paper, there are five major roles that exist in the world of 2019. We will focus on three of these roles to better explain what exactly the role of Journalism is.
Journalism provides two main functions in our civilization:
1) It provides a ‘check and balance’ system to ensure the roles in our world behave ethically and responsibly.
2) It controls the ‘flow’ of information between all the roles by ensuring the facts are complete, accurate, and as unbiased as possible.
As you can imagine, this is a significant role within our society, and the consequences of bad or irresponsible Journalism can be quite drastic. Those that control information control our world, and this is why Journalists need to take their jobs seriously.
News sources and journalists can all be plotted on a spectrum. In the middle, there are outlets that do their absolute best to only report on the facts and try to represent both sides equally. Then there are outlets that exists on the Left, or Liberal, side, and the Right, or Conservative, side. In the 1990s, here’s what this spectrum looked like:
Most people fall close to the middle, whether on the Conservative or Liberal side. Notice how someone that sits on the ‘Liberal / Neutral’ area is closer to ‘Conservative / Neutral’ than they are to ‘Extreme Liberal.’ Same on the Conservative side. Different circumstances can affect where populations of a nation tend to cluster. During times of economic prosperity, people tend to gravitate near Neutral. During times of economic hardship, people tend to gravitate further towards the extremes. The important thing to remember is that when this occurs, it does not originate from Journalism / News Media.
In the 1990’s, there was global disruption that occurred in the field of Journalism. The rise of the Internet created two massive changes that altered journalism on a fundamental level. The first was the issue of time. Although, 24-hour news was already common, the Internet provided a platform for ideas to spread in ways the world had not anticipated. This now means that more staff are required to monitor various social media networks, such as Twitter. The general public’s expectations have transformed into the need for constant instantaneous information.
There’s also been a shift in how people consume their news. About two thirds of American adults are getting at least some of their news on social media (Moon, A., 2017).
This is problematic, since its not exactly a secret that flooding the internet with incorrect information is achievable (Ordway, D., 2017). Social Media has one goal: to get their customers to spend as much time as possible on those platforms (Andersson, H., 2018). One way it achieves this is by targeting stories that a single user may find more interesting, even if these articles provide very little in reliable info. Everywhere you look, there are reports of scandals, fake news, and claims of nefarious actions seeking to further corrupt humanity’s well of knowledge.
The last huge issue plaguing journalism has been saturation. The internet saturated the field of journalism, where anyone can start their own version of the news. This saturation has forced legitimate news outlets to cut back on staff to remain profitable, or worse, the news outlets resort to only reporting on click-bait type stories, in order to ensure they maximize their readership. This means that some news outlets that use to lean slightly left or right, have now ventured further out into the extremes of their respective sides, and Journalism attempting to be as neutral as possible has been struggling since it’s not as good at maintaining our very short attention spans. Wait, what was I talking about?
Here is an updated news spectrum to reflect how it looks in 2019. And keep in mind, this shift did not occur from outside factors such as economic or political turmoil. It happened because some news outlets have decided to start running misleading, inaccurate, or incomplete stories in an attempt to gain greater viewership. As well, Journalism has been struggling financially since the disruption caused by the Internet (Lepore, J., 2019).
The dashed lines represent where the outlets used to sit on the spectrum prior to the Fall of Journalism.
There are sources in the references section, but really, you can just google “The Fall of Journalism,” and many different sources will come up. At least it did in August of 2019. Hopefully this gets corrected soon, for everyone’s sake.
In a nutshell, the world of Journalism has increased heavily in competition and workload, and decreased in compensation. This, in turn, has led to a significant portion of the communication problems occurring in sustainability (UPDATE: not to mention similar communication issues occurring on COVID-19). Although we love the Internet, it came around at a very inconvenient time and created a mass disruption in the journalism sector that, for the most part, went unnoticed to the general public.
What are the consequences of this?
The consequences of the Fall of Journalism have been quite severe. You can see many examples of this problem on the topic of sustainability (as outlined in the Viable Underdogs book and podcast). Here is just one example of this ‘political polarization’ in recent American politics:
This isn’t to comment on American politics in one way or the other. This polarization can be seen in political arenas across the globe. Although the previous article is suggesting this polarization originates with certain politicians or political parties, this polarization actually originated from the Fall of Journalism, as news outlets need to run more ‘polarizing’ stories to compete with click-bait outlets, and maximize profits during a time of terrible revenue from advertising (Angelucci, C., & Cage, J., 2016). The emotionally-charged stories eventually created emotionally-charged politics. Irresponsible journalism is now unintentionally creating its own stories since so many of us still hold our trust in the field of Journalism. As an FYI, advertising used to be the primary method of funding for many news outlets (Sweney, M., 2015).
Advertising doesn’t pay anymore.
Anyone that creates content, be that news or social media content like YouTube, has been affected by the diminishing returns on advertising. Here are a few sources that outline this problem or outline strategies to overcome this problem:
In response, some news sites put up pay walls, which is quite troubling 'cause this means that reliable news is now becoming less accessible to those unwilling to pay for it. Others, such as The Guardian, relies on its readers’ donations as a portion of the funds it uses to support itself. This is the reason why they have been less affected by the Fall of Journalism, and conversely, also why they tend to lean a little more left (or more liberal) on many news stories. If the majority of their readers also lean more liberal on the political spectrum, then it makes sense that they would cater to the audience that supports them. However, as one can imagine, this would entail a certain amount of bias in their stories. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but the problem is there does not really exist a conservative news outlet equivalent to The Guardian. So, even though The Guardian is a reliable news source mostly unaffected by the Fall of Journalism, it's technically affected since it has no counterpart on the Conservative side of the political spectrum.
The disruption of journalism, or Fall of Journalism, occurred when the Internet was accelerating in popularity. This was during the early 2000’s (Viner, K., 2016). The story of sustainability, during that time period, was that politics were still attached to the story. For the most part, the left was slightly more concerned, and the right was rather dismissive. As a species, we love procrastinating (SEE: Episode 6 in the Viable Underdogs Podcast-Audiobook).
Then the disruption in Journalism (or Fall of Journalism) occurred. Anyone could run the news. Google has its own news, which is just aggregated from all the other news sites:
(Keep in mind, this adds another player in the Global Telephone Game we mentioned in Episode 27). And this adds more difficulties in journalists getting compensated for their work, since their work is being aggregated into larger news sites that can afford lower revenues from advertising cause they don’t have to pay writing staff and editors, etc.
The story of Sustainability has been “frozen in time” since almost every news site, apart from The Guardian, is not reporting on Sustainability as though it’s a crisis (UPDATE: That is, until other crises take prominence such as COVID-19).
For more information on how a news outlet should more effectively communicate during a crisis, I highly recommend checking out the book: “Crisis Communications” by Steven Fink. It’s basically a how-to on communicating during a crisis. The fundamentals don’t really change whether you’re a CEO in a business or a government official.
Why is The Guardian one of the few outlets that are more effective at communicating this crisis? It’s because they are likely one of the most well funded.
I am not presenting this to scare you about sustainability (that’s what the book and podcast are for). I am presenting it as evidence of just how bad the Fall of Journalism is. Our Journalists are the only professionals that don’t realize we are in a crisis. Well, and our Academics, but that’s a story for another day.
This blog will cover many stories, concepts and strategies you likely have not heard. In fact, while I cannot guarantee that you haven’t heard some of it, I can guarantee that not one single reader will have heard of all the info I present in this blog. Do you wanna know how I know that?
‘Cause I’m the guy that can correct a global communication problem with a short podcast. I cannot yet locate anyone to entertain the idea due to it being ‘wizardry.’ There’s no wizardry.
There are so many silos present in academic fields that anyone that’s talented at seeking information on the web can become the next Einstein!
If you find that hard to believe, then read the Viable Underdogs books. And if you don’t, your reaction is literally like everyone else I encounter. It’s wizardry….
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…
Here is one outlet that focuses primarily on new technologies (Futurism – See: References) commenting on the poor journalistic standards of another outlet on their coverage of killer asteroids.
Don’t call Bruce Willis and his rag-tag crew of oil drillers just yet, since this is simply another example of click-bait style reporting.
SOME NEWS OUTLETS RELABEL COUNTRIES ON WORLD MAPS…
Here is another article by a different news outlet also commenting on the poor journalistic standards of competing news sources:
For more, just input “The Fall of Journalism” into Google. You’ll find many articles by news sources telling you not to trust news sources.
The Fall of Journalism is the source of many communication problems throughout our world. Here’s a short list of the problems it causes:
-Globally, our politics on both sides of the political spectrum (whether more Conservative or more Liberal) are more emotionally charged.
-We can not currently effectively communicate long-term crisis messages to the general public, such as our sustainability crisis. We also cannot effectively communicate national security threats like Deep Fake Technology:
I strongly encourage you to read the article and research this technology on your own time. This tech could have global consequences since anyone could make a video of anything their warped imaginations could conjure up. Take a moment to see how creative you could get. 😉
-The general public then becomes more distrustful of many sources of information, including scientific information. The Fall of Journalism has played a role in accelerating the Antivaxxer movement. Many individuals are becoming more distrustful of established science, and they may be enticed by click-bait type articles suggesting links between autism and vaccines. There is no such link:
You can read more about it in this Article:
This paper, written by Danish researchers, is located in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, which is published by the American College of Physicians.
Globally, we need to ensure that Journalism is well funded and held to high ethical standards. Either that or see the news for what it has largely become:
A tabloid that you would find at your local kiosk covering celebrities. Our news media is no longer what it once was. Some really have devolved to match the tabloids at news kiosks, except it covers politicians instead of celebrities.
I suppose this shouldn’t concern you, assuming you value what’s trending on the social media feeds of our elected officials over genuine concerns like national security threats.
Even Sturgill Simpson discusses the Fall of Journalism in his music…
More info on the Fall of Journalism is referenced in our book. You can also Google “The Fall of Journalism.”
Angelucci, C., & Cage, J. (2016). Vox CEPR policy Portal. The newspaper ad collapse: bad news for readers.
(THERE ARE MANY MORE SOURCES THAT ARE QUITE EASY TO LOCATE ON THE PROBLEM OF POOR ADVERTISING REVENUE)
Dorian, M., (2019). Businessesgrow.com. Why content creators need to ditch the ad revenue model.
Houser, K., (September, 2019). Futurism. Deepfake Pioneer: “Perfectly real” fake vids are six months away.
Hviid A, Hansen JV, Frisch M, et al. Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccination and Autism: A Nationwide Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. 2019;170:513–520. [Epub ahead of print 5 March 2019]. doi: 10.7326/M18-2101
Milman, O., (2019). The Guardian. Political polarisation over climate crisis has surged under trump.
Ohren, P., (2018). Digital Marketing Blog. Why your 2017 content strategy won’t work in 2018.
Robitzski, D., (2019). Futurism. This awful tabloid predicts a killer asteroid almost every day.
Sweney, M., (2015). The Guardian. Newspapers face up to the ad crunch in print and digital.
Teixeira, T., (2014). Harvard Business School. The rising cost of consumer attention: Why you should care and what you can do about it.
Viner, K., (2016). The Guardian. How technology disrupted the truth.
Zhou, N., (2019). The Guardian. Russia Today puts Japan on the map, where New Zealand should be. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/24/russia-today-puts-japan-on-the-map-where-new-zealand-should-be