Journalism: A dying field, democracy, and uncertainty

“Journalism is what maintains democracy. It’s the force for progressive social change”

– Andrew Vachss

A dying field 

I’m in love with a dying field. 

Journalism at its core protects and preserves democracy. It provides a platform for the silenced and spearheads movements of social change and unrest. Yet, we have been told over and over that there is a shortage of reliable news and media outlets, nationally and internationally. This is not true. There will always be journalists willing and able to cover news stories with genuine and unbiased reporting. The problem is that journalism is not being valued as an industry – and never was. 

“Journalism is suffering because it’s perceived as “free” and therefore inherently undervalued.” – Dave Yin, HuffPost

That being said, the industry is undergoing very significant structural and societal changes. Due to rapidly advancing technology, the way our news is consumed has shifted completely. We can see that a similar pattern is occurring with hotel and taxi industries as well. Even the state of traditional retail. As described by many sociologists and media analysts, since journalism is perceived as “free,” it is inherently undervalued. 

Dave Yin, a Toronto-based journalist and photographer for the HuffPost, says that journalism isn’t dying, it’s being murdered. Yin claims that the type of death we are witnessing is not from natural causes. It is man-made. Christopher B. Daly, a reporter for the Washington Post, seems to agree. Daly argues that the fundamental problem is that print advertising has dried up as a reliable stream of revenue. During the 19th century, a majority of U.S. newspapers relied heavily on display advertising and classified ads. Together, those sources accounted for more than half of all the revenue at most papers. In other words, readers were being subsidized by the advertisers; since readers are resistant to paying more and advertising revenue erodes, many newspapers find themselves in a difficult position. This unfortunate cycle has had a jarring impact on how state and local news are reported.

Suddenly, stories are neglected. Eyes are averted. Scandals arise, but no one notices. 

Democracy

That’s why journalism is so important. I believe that journalists not only create a platform for local and global reporting, we are also “watchdogs” for the society. As a local reporter, I have created meaningful relationships with the people in my own community, in Queens. I have spoken to BIDs, small business owners, and residents about their struggles and experiences living in our neighborhood. I have covered stories about coronavirus, public education, power outages, etc. Without local reporting, these seemingly “small” issues may not have been addressed. 

Uncertainty

Sometimes it feels like slaying these dragons isn’t worth saving the princess. I have been freelancing for two years now, covering local news in Queens and Manhattan while making twenty dollars per article. I’m not saying the value of these stories is disproportionate to the effort it takes to produce them; rather, I understand how a journalist’s life is oftentimes full of uncertainty. When people depict journalism in movies (ex. All the President’s Men (1976), State of Play (2009), The Post (2017)), it is a groundbreaking on-the-floor operation that spans a couple of days and leaves the journalists with riches and fame. I have even heard it from professors – the thrill of the job that can’t be replaced. Every day a new city. Every day a new adventure. Every day a new story. I guess, right now, it’s just hard to look that far ahead. I’m a college student, working out of a bedroom on a laptop that sounds like a helicopter every time I try to edit on Premiere Pro. Forgive me, the gluttony of journalism hasn’t seeped into my lifestyle just yet. And maybe it never will! However, I realize that the power of good journalism can move mountains. Within the recent years, it seems that the public has also better understood the value of journalism and why it should be funded. 

We need to fuel journalism because journalism fuels democracy. 

Interesting reads:

  1. Journalism Isn’t Dying – It’s Being Murdered
  2. Journalism isn’t dying. But it is changing in ominous ways.

My articles:

  1. Queens teens deal with drastic impact of COVID-19 school shutdown
  2. CUNY Students Cope with COVID Fallout
  3. 57,000 Queens households lost power during Tuesday’s tropical storm

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