Digital journalism: A New Way of doing Journalism
A cup of hot tea with the newspaper is the quintessential start to mornings in India. Well, the romance of newspapers may soon be a nostalgic memory of the yesteryears. Next only to China, India has 500 million internet users. With low cost devices and better 3G/4G internet speed, the traditional journalistic landscape is slowly giving way to digital or online journalism.
Traditional Vs Digital Journalism
The rapid boom in mobile internet users coincided with the rise in digital journalism scene. The Wire, Scroll, the Quint are producing interesting content with ‘mobile-first' distribution strategy as mobile devices account for 79 percent of web traffic in India, compared to 50 percent globally. They give real time news and analysis without the shouting matches of the television news rooms.
Digital journalism sets itself apart from the print and T.V. journalism on many accounts. It has catapulted news from a once-a-day product to an ongoing event to be consumed real time on social media and news portals.
For digital journalism web traffic is God. That is why web journalists are expected to know about the workings of the search engines and the use of keywords. They have to be in tune with the trending topics and package the content in an accessible manner by using multimedia tools. While print journalists take pains to carefully frame headlines, a web journalist will think more in terms of the ease of discovery of a story.
While a print journalist may toil to produce an elaborate in-depth article, for a digital journalist, given that the content is consumed mostly on the 5 inches screen of a mobile phones, brevity is important.
The 5Ws and a H ( what, when, where, why, who and how) makes up the bulk of the newspapers with barely two pages of editorial opinion. Digital news websites has less reporting and more analysis.
Digital journalism is an interactive medium where the comments and reactions to a story are quick, editors and writers are constantly put on the spot by the readers making them more accountable.
Antidote to sycophancy
Neutrality of media is a thing of the bygone era. Unfortunately, censorship, pedaling a particular ideology or party line is the norm now. Be it news channels or news papers, barring a few, each media house has a Left or a Right leaning. Digital marketing may not be an absolute antidote to self censorship and bias towards one particular party line but it certainly limits it. Self censorship of an important story by a news portal can cost them the significant loss of web traffic and popularity. They have to cast their net wide and far to keep the readers engaged and keep the web traffic going. Toeing a particular ideology can make them predictable and their niche world view will limit the popularity and reach of their site. The instance of The Wire breaking an important and sensational political story about the BJP president’s son was a flickering ray of hope in the otherwise gloomy state of electronic and print media.
The bottom line is that one can choose to report exclusively about fashion, movies, sports, politics etc but can not afford to be predictable in their views.
Digital journalism weakens the hierarchies of the traditional newsroom. The pace of the news cycle is so swift that a story in the morning may become stale by the afternoon. The pressure to constantly keep the wheel spinning and gauge the online trends, decentralizes the power of an editor as in traditional set up and places more power with the reporters and writers. The judgement of the editor is not to be undermined but a digital news room is more democratic as digital journalism relies on skills other than just writing. A desk rookie good at gauging online trends and writing viral stories could be more useful than a serious editor.
Online news come with its own set of issues of due diligence. The tearing hurry to put the story online often overtakes the need to get it right. A host of unverified, badly stitched stories circulate on the web to attract the traffic. While newspapers have the luxury of time to verify the facts before putting it out the next day.
Our reading habits are changing with shrinking attention spans which means more skimming of news online than real sustained engagement as in the case of newspaper.
Media is facing a serious trust deficit in the wake of constant attacks on journalists and polarized news being the norm of the day. Digital media is no silver bullet but it presents a ray of hope.
Authored by Richa Singh, Content Writer, Investronaut.