The Death of a Legacy: The Cost of Moving Forward, By Charlotte Hartshorne

In a society of evolving technology within a primarily digital era, the use of traditional mediums has become redundant in place of easier, faster and more accessible methods of ascertaining information. The decline in revenue and readership of print journalism has resulted in the rise of online journalism. This move has created contention over the quality of reportage now available, where anonymity, sensationalism and lower ethical standards are prolific within online mediums. Growth within the digital journalism industry indicates a future for journalism, but at what cost? This background report will analyse and compare the quality of online journalism in relation to ethics and the state of the industry.

Is the transition from print to online journalism negatively affecting quality?

Travel Writer and Content Strategist Deborah Dickson-Smith attributes her move from Magazine Publishing Director to Freelance Online Writer 5 years ago to an observation that “magazines [started] struggling to survive as they competed with online publications for readership and advertising dollars”[1]. As someone with experience in both print media and now online journalism, Dickson-Smith represents a sector that is now commonplace within the industry. This move has become typical within the journalism industry, with a substantial rise of employment in the online sector. Considering that “shrinkage of newsrooms [is creating] concern for the future of journalism”[2], as stated by the University of Wisconsin Centre for Journalism Ethics, how is the rise of online reporting affecting the state of industry and its growth, quality and revenue?

Part I: Growth

According to study conducted by the Pew Research Centre within the State of the News Media 2014, the rate of hiring within the online journalism industry has been “explosive”[3]. Within the last three years digital natives such as BuzzFeed have gone from six editorial employees to 170, Bleacher Report has increased from 0 to 50 and Vice Media operation has hired 48 more staff this year, with other media organisations looking to increase staff. This has also been reflected in the loss of newsroom employment within print media, as can be seen in Figure 1, designed on Microsoft Excel through information collected from the American Society of Newspaper Editors Newsroom Census[4]. The data set depicts the rise and decline of newsroom employment, as society reaches a primarily technological age. Figure 2 also represents this evolution, where data from the Pew Research Centres State of the News Media 2013[5], formulated on a Microsoft Word graph, depicts the decline of print readership and the rise of online consumption over the last decade, thus leading to the question of the quality of news. There has also been a conspicuous move of professional high-profile journalists to online news reporting, given that where print newsrooms continue to decline in staff the “digital native news universe … includes not only dozens of highly publicized national and international organizations, but also hundreds of smaller digital news entities”[6], a wealth of job opportunities. However this transition is not guaranteed to be successful as Dickson-Smith elaborates, “only this week Fairfax announced 70 more jobs would go as they have yet to find an online business model that works for them, and continue to lose money”[7].

Although this indicates an industry saturated by professional journalists, inferring a high quality work ethic, the online journalistic sphere is shared with “tweeters, bloggers, citizen journalists, and social media users”[8] and thus “requires guidelines that apply to amateur and professional whether they blog, Tweet, broadcast or write for newspaper” as the journalistic ethics for print media are no longer relevant. As Dickson-Smith said, “Newspaper journalists … suffer more now online because there are no subeditors to check their work”[9], whilst amateur writers do not utilise editing policies whatsoever. Without these ethics, it is indicative that quality is being negatively impacted as a direct result of journalists no longer having a set of policies in place to govern the way in which they work.

Part II: Quality

Dickson-Smith described the nature of online journalism as “sensationalist (Huffington Post, MamaMia, Daily Mail, NineMSN)”[10], considering the overwhelmingly different values and content between traditional and online journalism. “The culture of traditional journalism, with its values of accuracy, pre-publication verification, balance, impartiality, and gate-keeping, rubs up against the culture of online journalism which emphasizes immediacy, transparency, partiality, non-professional journalists and post-publication correction”[11], and thus adequately describes the shifting progression between accuracy and immediacy and the sensationalist nature of the digital product. As the online business model relies on advertising for revenue, easy trivialised reads attract a reader to peruse their website. However with factual and hard-hitting journalism now becoming redundant, what will the future of journalism look like?

The pressure of immediacy results in discrepancies “from misspelling words to making factual errors”[12], considering “newsrooms publish stories before they are adequately checked and verified as to the source of the story and reliability of alleged facts”[13]. Quality was monitored and utilised in print media to substantiate stories and thus journalism gained a reputable and impartial standing within the media. Journalism is now becoming sensationalised to earn enough revenue to remain viable within the competitive digital industry. With the evolution to online reporting, quality can be seen to decrease and thus the transition from print to online journalism is depicted as inherently negative.

Part III: Revenue

Online journalism has a multi-faceted revenue picture. As the Pew Research Centre elaborates, “many of the native digital news organisations are small, non-profit and young, and nearly 30% have come into existence since 2010”[14]. In a case study constructed in March 2012, based on primary data provided by newspapers and interviews with newspaper companies, it was found that “the effort to replace losses in print ad revenue with new digital revenue was taking longer and proving more difficult than executives wanted … where for every $1 newspapers were gaining in digital ad revenue, they were losing $7 in print advertising”[15]. The journalism industry is largely supported by advertising and audience revenues from print and television.

Revenue from online journalistic ventures are now emerging, in the form of investments, venture capital and philanthropy which bring with them different approaches to journalism. These online investments do not represent a change in the business model as of yet, although they indicate it will be profitable in the future, thus the majority of revenue is coming from the no longer viable print industry (and television). “News in the US generates roughly $63 billion in annual revenue”[16], according to Pew Research analysis, whilst advertising accounts for two-thirds of this income. This model is not feasible, with print advertising in a sharp decline and the steady migration of audiences from the television medium to online sources. Despite the growth of digital advertising it does not compensate for the decline in other legacy advertising.  The next largest source of income is audience revenue, yet growth in this area does not indicate a larger consumer market, but that additional revenue is being utilised by a shrinking customer base.

Quality within the online journalism industry is declining, with organisations looking to produce as much profit as possible within a short deadline. This has led to the sensationalism of news within the media. An example of this can be found on the Courier Mail’s website, with headlines such as “My Kitchen Rules judge Pete Evans loves going barefoot but is it clueless to be shoeless?”[17], “Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi: ‘I did every Jersey Shore interview drunk’”[18] and “Insider reveals the exorbitant cost of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding”[19]. Although sporadically interspersed with news articles, this once professional magazine has fallen prey to the trivialisation of news within digital media in an attempt to gain higher readership. Dickson-Smith believes “people will realise at some point that they still need to pay for quality and that all they will get for free is celebrity gossip cut and paste from one publication to the next with a call to action that reads: ‘…and you won’t believe what happens next!’”[20]. It can be seen that quality within the journalism industry has significantly declined following the transition into online media, but will this improve through the use of ethical guidelines and a need to create sustainable revenue?


[1] Interview between Charlotte Hartshorne and Deborah Dickson-Smith, (Accessed 16 May 2014)

[2] (Accessed 16 May 2014)

[3] (Accessed 16 May 2014)

[4] (Accessed 22 May 2014), Figure 1. Formulated on Microsoft Excel

[5] (Accessed 17 May 2014), Figure 2. Formulated on Microsoft Word

[6] Refer to Footnote 3 (Accessed 17 May 2014)

[7] Refer to Footnote 1 (Accessed 16 May 2014)

[8] Refer to Footnote 2 (Accessed 17 May 2014)

[9] Refer to Footnote 1 (Accessed 16 May 2014)

[10] Refer to Footnote 1 (Accessed 16 May 2014)

[11] Refer to Footnote 2 (Accessed 18 May 2014)

[12] Refer to Footnote 2 (Accessed 19 May 2014)

[13] Refer to Footnote 2 (Accessed 19 May 2014)

[14] Refer to Footnote 3 (Accessed 19 May 2014)

[15] (Accessed 21 May 2014)

[16] (Accessed 21 May 2014)

[17]  (Accessed 21 May 2014)

[18] (Accessed 21 May 2014)

[19] (Accessed 21 May 2014)

[20] Refer to Footnote 1 (Accessed 16 May 2014)Image

Will digital journalism replace print journalism?

Will digital journalism replace print journalism?


As the world continues to turn to technology, so does journalism. There are issues being raised as to whether online journalism will replace print journalism in the future. This background report will examine reliable sources and look at data sets to provide an in-depth investigation of the issues surrounding this subject.



Newspapers (print journalism or digital journalism)

The graph below contains data from the Newspaper Association of America[i]. It shows that the amount of people in the US looking for news online has increased by 26 million within 11 months.


Since the internet has become easily accessible, it has given people the option to view news in a variety of different ways. They have the ability to view multiple sources, a lot of these with no cost at all. Although print journalism is downsizing and there is a decline in journalists, there is a large increase in digital journalism. That means that to cater for this new online presence, journalists who are willing to and have the needed skills to work in digital journalism are in high demand.


Where young people are looking for news

The line graph below contains raw data from the article ‘Internet overtakes newspapers as news outlet[ii],’ which is featured on the Pew Research Centre website.

The data shows whether the internet or newspapers are more popular for young people to look for the latest news. The graph clearly outlines the dramatic increase in young adults sourcing news from internet sources, rather than the more traditional journalism medium of the newspaper. It validates the belief that online journalism is growing rapidly. As this age group continues to grow up, their digital presence and choice for accessing news will be passed on to younger generations. This re-ensures that digital journalism will continue to grow.



Digital advertising revenue vs. print advertising revenue

The following graph contains data obtained from Borrell Associates[iii]. The graph featured shows the prediction of digital advertising revenue compared to print advertising revenue up until 2018.


It is clear that from 2013 onwards online is rapidly growing while print continues on a steady path. From this prediction, there is no doubt that online will quickly pass print and continue to grow in profits. Advertising is a big part of journalism with “more than two-thirds (69%) of all U.S. news revenue derived from advertising”.[iv] With this in mind, and looking at the graph that shows advertising online becoming more popular than print, it is clear that journalism in heading online the future.


Professional recognition

A big issue with digital journalism is professional recognition. In a lot of cases online journalism isn’t getting enough credit within the industry. This is because recognition is closely linked to what company you work for. The online world gives journalists the opportunity to branch out on their own, but this is difficult when you aren’t a recognized name. Online journalism is undervalued because it is featured online. This is due to the large number of people who have the opportunity to post their opinion. People are finding it hard to decipher between what information is reliable and what is unreliable[v]. This shows that although digital journalism gives journalists a faster way to distribute their work, it will take longer to earn a reliable status.



Speed vs. quality

The future of journalism[vi], conducted a survey to find out what newspaper journalists thought the most important role for an Australian journalist is. The three roles that ranked the highest were, informing the public, scrutinize the powerful and entertaining. When asked about the key roles of online journalism, the results were very different. Speed was ranked highest with 46 per cent, followed by interactivity then multimedia production. The shows that online journalism’s main priority is not the same as print journalism. This is an issue as print journalism focuses immensely on informing the public with quality news, where as digital journalism focus’s more on the layout and being the first to post information to the public.


Networked journalism

As digital journalism is rising, so is networked journalism. Networked journalism gives citizens the opportunity to get involved with the story, contributing facts and asking questions that may not have been asked. Journalists are beginning to rely on the public to assist in reporting a story. After the story is posted citizen have the ability to continue posting questions, facts, feedback, possible corrections and a different perspective. In Networked, Adrienne Russell[vii] describes networked journalism by saying, “the variety of forms and perspectives that make up news in this environment and the number of connections linking creators to one another have significant influence on the news and have expanded journalism as a category of information and genre storytelling.” This quote suggests that not only is journalism growing due to the use of new media, it is also connecting people with each other who did not have that opportunity before. Networked journalism has changes the way of traditional journalism. It suggests that professional journalists are not manufactures of news, but instead the “moderator of conversation that gets to the news.”[viii] Digital journalism involves multiple professionals as well as citizens working together supporting, approving and refining the core of the story being told[ix]. This gives journalists a new source of inspiration and a way to access information, photos, videos and facts that they don’t have the ability to reach.




Social Media

In the KONY video[x], Jason Russell says, at this point in time, there are “more people on Facebook than there were on the planet 200 years ago, of them, 57 per cent will talk to people more online than they do in real life; and of those, 48 per cent get the majority of their news from Facebook.” One of the main benefits of journalists and news companies using social media is that it can distribute news immediately after it has happened. Print journalism generally has to wait until the next day to feature it in the paper. Journalists also use social media to become informed of news that has just happened. It provides them with immediate information from citizens who were there when the event occurred. Social media is assisting journalists, as citizens help collect information and spread news for free. The world of digital journalism is unsteady and risky, but the communities “demand for information, analysis and interpretation” is greater than ever[xi].


Multimedia elements

Digital journalism creates a new way of storytelling through different mediums and methods. Journalists now have the ability to use a variety of media such as audio, video photo slideshows and graphics to engage the reader. As explained above in the survey conducted by ‘The future of journalism,’ interactivity and multimedia production were ranked as the highest elements of digital journalism. It is a new way to tell a story that brings in components that are not available in print journalism, making these stories more compelling and engaging[xii]. These multi-dimensional components have the ability to grab and hold a reader to convey a deeper emotion then words can. Watching a video of someone speak about just witnessing a tragic event is going to have a bigger impact on the public rather then reading a quote. These multimedia elements give journalists the opportunity to put readers into their shoes and to experience the sights, audio and emotion that can only take place if you are there on site. As the community as a whole becomes more technology savvy, the public is expecting a higher level of news and a different way of portraying this information. Journalists now have the ability to create the whole background mood of a story; from just one look at a multimedia production you are able to convey a level of emotion. This is because each media element complements the other with a unique way to navigate through the story. Multimedia storytelling is one of the main reasons digital journalism is such a success, it does something that is impossible for print journalism to do. The public thrives of interactivity and getting involved in events taking place, they want the raw data and every detail as though they were right their watching it happen. Digital journalism that uses multimedia elements creates a new way to engage the public, in a way that print journalism cannot.


Word count- 1, 400


[i] (Accessed 9 May 2014)


[ii] (Accessed 7 May 2014)


[iii] (Accessed 9 May 2014)


[iv] (Accessed 10 May 2014)


[v] (Accessed 10 May 2014)


[vi] (Accessed 9 May 2014)


[vii] (Accessed 9 May 2014)


[viii] (Accessed 10 May 2014)


[ix] (Accessed 9 May 2014)


[x] (Accessed 9 May 2014)


[xi] (Accessed 9 May 2014)


[xii] (Accessed 15 May 2014)