The Evolution of Journalism in the Digital Era: Implications for Communicators
September 28, 2023
As someone who has spent the last 25+ years in technology communications, I find myself frequently torn between marveling at the advances technology has brought to our day-to-day lives and deeply concerned regarding some of its unintended consequences. One of the main areas of concern is the impact technology has had on the media and, by extension, our national discourse.
The advent of cable TV and, subsequently, the rise of mobile devices and social media platforms, all vying for ad revenue, has resulted in the progressive commodification of news. According to the 2023 Digital News Report released by the Reuters Institute, people around the world are spending less on traditional media and turning to social media and other “free” digital platforms for their news.
According to the report, as the social media landscape evolves away from platforms like Twitter and Facebook — which have traditionally been places for journalists to promote their stories — to TikTok, Instagram and SnapChat, audiences are relying more on “celebrities, influencers, and social media personalities than journalists” as sources for their news. In this environment, unsourced and unverified content has flourished, as have misinformation and disinformation.
Enter generative AI which, less than one year into its commercial availability, has already achieved mainstream adoption with virtually no guardrails in terms of how it is used to create content. In a recent issue of his technology newsletter, Platformer, journalist Casy Newton wrote: “I worry the glut of AI text will leave us with a web where the signal is ever harder to find in the noise.” So while AI holds incredible promise for many sectors, it’s a double-edged sword for journalism and marketing. AI tools can assist in developing high-quality content, but can not be a replacement for journalistic integrity, proper sourcing and fact-checking.
For communications and marketing professionals, AI and the evolving news landscape is a call to action. As with all technology, AI is a fantastic enabler, but we must balance it with human creativity and discernment. We are the gatekeepers of information and, in many cases, the initial source for many journalists. We know that successful content is about fostering engagement and trust. We know this trust is the foundation of long-lasting relationships between a brand and its audience. Now, more than ever, we must help the brands we represent prioritize accuracy, authenticity, and integrity in their communication.