OPINION: Journalism isn’t dying, it’s evolving – and this is a good thing

Price Wilborn, Commentary writer

As a young American, something I have heard said from many people older than me is that journalism is “dying.” That the field is not growing and that it does not have the influence it did in the days where newspapers were the biggest news source Americans used.

This simply is not the case.

For over centuries, journalism has continuously evolved. In 1690, the first newspaper in the United States was published. The first news program produced by a commercial radio station aired in 1920. The latter parts of the World War II and the immediate decades that followed saw the introduction of television news.

This evolution has never stopped. Today, the majority of Americans get their news from digital devices. A 2021 Pew Research Center study showed that 86% of American adults get their news from a smartphone or tablet. 68% get their news from television, 50% from the radio and 32% from print publications.

The study, among other things, also showed that 42% of young people ages 18-29 get their news from social media. The BBC reported a study that showed Instagram as the most popular news source for young people. TikTok and YouTube were also among the top sources.

There is a simple explanation for this: as technology advances and is marketed more towards people of my age, news outlets must adapt. Most large news outlets, including NBC, CBS, BBC, ABC and Fox, utilize social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok daily. In order to reach larger audiences, this is only a natural next step.

Online, many argue that journalism is dying. They argue that the reduced number of newspapers and newspaper staff and the invention of the 24-hour news cycle has created a field that is no longer serving the needs of its consumers. They argue that the never-ending news cycle has lowered the quality of journalism because reporters are trying only to get clicks through any means necessary.

Sure, this might be the case with some outlets, but this is not the case for journalism as a field. With the advancement in technology and society, this evolution is only natural. Newsrooms have grown smaller because there is not a large demand for print newspapers anymore. 

In their place, however, have popped up reporters that can work anywhere at any time. No longer do reporters have to travel while looking for somewhere with a computer to write their story on before their deadline. Technology now allows reporters to file a story on a laptop or phone from anywhere with an internet connection.

This allows reporters to do even more meaningful work. They can spend longer investigating a story, talking to sources or following a lead. Their work is more in-depth than ever before.

In a world full of contrasting opinions, the work of reporters can be even more important than ever before, too.

Through social media and the internet, the news one receives can be based on one’s opinion, not the other way around. In a world of divisiveness, reporters that only report the facts are more important than ever. There are those out there that present their opinions as the news because they know their audience will believe it. Reporters that cut through this and report the facts as they see them are more important than ever.

It was only a matter of time until a 24/7 news cycle came into existence. Now that it has been here for decades, it is not going anywhere. Sure, journalism may be shrinking, but it is certainly not dying, as many believe it is.

Here at WKU, I see journalism majors that are working hard to learn the field because they want to report the facts and make that contribution to the world. I have the utmost respect for these Hilltoppers, and any other journalism majors anywhere in the world. In a world of interconnectedness, they will be attacked for what they report just because someone doesn’t agree with it. They will push through it though.

The prevalence of news on social media is an evolution that any business would go through. If more people can be informed of the facts, the better. Without journalism, we would not be able to think critically about issues in the world. The varying opinions across the world can get confusing, but it allows readers to become as informed as they can, should they choose to do so.

The world is more connected than ever before, and it will only become more so. Journalism is not going away. It should not lose the respect of people because it is evolving. This evolution should be applauded. Without those working to present us with the facts, where would we be today?

Commentary writer Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.