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October 24, 2021, 8:19 am

Is Journalism Going to Face Death?

  • Update Time : Friday, July 10, 2020
  • 476 Time View

 

  • Moshiul Alam*
    Is journalism dying?- Writing this sentence in the Google Search Engine I looked at the results. Before passing a second Google showed the path of 2 crore 40 lakh links. It indicates how the crisis of the existence of journalism has turned to be an issue of an extensive discourses. The crisis is so severe that the word ‘death’ has been used. That means question has arisen, as a profession is the journalism going to die?
    But why this inauspicious question? Can the journalism die? Then what would be the responsibility and accountability of the government in the fields of governance of the state, use of power, application of laws, spending of tax money? What would happen to political rights, human rights, right to expression of opinion, right to know information. In short without news media and journalism how the world would run?
    With deathlike crisis of journalism there are innumerable questions including these questions that are very deeply involved. Hence it is to be explored why and in what circumstances this question has arisen. On 3rd November, 2019 Daily Star Editor, Mahfuz Anam in an interview indicated about few big challenges in the world perspective and facing journalism in Bangladesh. One challenge is political: Throughout the world the highly powerful state leaders attack the news media and journalists by abuses and black acts.
    An elected president of a country that is known as the holy land for the independent journalism speaks ill of journalists as the ‘worst animal of the earth’. Through countries of the world such hard black acts have been passed whereby the journalist can be roped up in the waist and kept in prison; elements of publication are kept seized. Even the legal instrument of giving punishment on the allegation of spying by the journalists has been imported.
    The second challenge has come from the world of technology. As a result of unprecedented extension of digital technology now information, news and exchange of opinions is not limited only in the news media; such a media which has no relation with journalism provides facilities for exchange of everything in the twinkling of an eye. This very challenge is severely felt in the journalism and news media industry of the Western World. The income of the one time famous and formidable Newspapers and TV Stations has diminished in such high rate that they now face survival crisis. After 2005 even in less than a decade all the big news organizations turned into losing concerns. One of the most business-successful newspaper of a time in the USA, New York Time earned an income of 215 crore 30 lack and 94 thousand US dollars in 2006; being reduced the income of this newspaper dropped down to a trifling figure of 63 crore, 38 lac and 71 dollars in 2015.
    Another top-ranking daily of USA, Washington Post faces a still more pathetic suffering. Failing to bear the burden of loss the owners sold out the newspaper; the wealthy proprietor of Amazon, Zef Bezos purchased the same. But himself also tired to find out the way of stopping loss of the daily. On the other hand the print edition of the prestigious daily ‘The Independent’ of Britain has died. Now the Online Edition only survives; prior to this fate the ownership of the newspaper changed more than once. Finally a rootless Russian multi-millionaire, the latest owner of the newspaper with a view to minimizing loss has sacked about two-third journalists; yet then it did not work in any practical sense. How long he would run this way is difficult to predict.
    Whether Guardian, a newspaper of 200 years old in Britain ultimately would sustain or not is now a question that has been raised. Because the burden of loss of this newspaper is very big; sufferings are so horrible that Guardian authority has prayed for contribution to the readers. Arresting a big loss for sustenance Guardian has to change the previous appearance. The newspaper earlier had the size of broadsheet; now it is printed in the tabloid or compact form. They have been compelled to close their printing press; now it is printed in the press of Mirror Group.
    For minimizing cost many newsmen and other workers have been sacked; the process of sacking is continuing as yet. In 2016 the newspaper authority declared that in the next 3 years 20% costs would be decreased. When December of this year ends they would calculate whether the costs got decreased by 20% or not. Not the newspapers only the income of the Television Stations throughout the world also extremely decreased and the flow of diminution remains continuous.
    Now the question is why the income of the top ranking news organization gets lowered this way? Has the demand or necessity of news of those countries gone down? No, It is at all not the demand or necessity of news or its analysis has decreased at all. The matter is that the people are not now dependent only on
    newspapers or TV Channels; they get everything from social communication media and online news portals. The main cause of decrease of income of newspapers and TV channels is the diminution of advertisement. The advertisements that they got earlier are now received by facebook, google, amazon, etc. digital platforms who don’t practice journalism.
    These digital platforms can be termed as non-journalistic medium for whom an unprecedented critical situation has developed in the 500 year history of journalism. So long where there was news, the gathering of the people was very high there. And where there is heavy rush of the people, the rush of more advertisement also is there. That means there was no medium of advertisement other than newspapers and TV Stations (It is here necessary to say that the lion share of the income source of newspaper and TV Stations is advertisement).
    Now this picture has seriously changed. Today the places where the highest number of people gathers are not news media; these are non-journalistic media- google, facebook, amazon, etc. The lion part of the advertisements go to them. In 2017 the 61% of online advertisement throughout the world was received by google and facebook. These two organizations received 73% of total American online advertisement. 83% of the growth of online advertisement throughout the world has gone to their share.
    When the readers of the printed newspapers started to decrease and that of online to increase, it was expected that the advertisements of printed newspapers would move to online editions. But in practice that did not happen in the said degree. As a result the total income from the printed and online editions of a newspaper did not enhance to its potential limit. In practice in no platform of the news organizations advertisement can be kept. Because compared to them the rush of the people in the google and facebook is greater by hundreds of times. If we notice the difference of online advertisement between google and New York Times we are to be astonished: In 2016 google earned an income of 7 thousand, 940 hundred crore US dollars and that of Newyork Times only 58 crore, 7 lack and 30 thousand US dollars.
    As a result the business model of journalism so far followed has turned ineffective. In this model none sees any possibility of increasing the income of news firms. So the question has arisen that the crisis of journalism as a profession and industry that has appeared before the news media poses a crisis of survival?
    It is rather a crisis of existence. But as a consequence of it the death of journalism is going to happen – none speaks of such a contention. Because, we should not be such pessimistic. Finding of the path of resisting the death of journalist profession is going on; new business model is being searched. No reliable model as yet has been found out; but my personal perception is that the business model that is chiefly dependent on advertisement would no more do. Advertisement would never return to the news media in that manner in order that dependence on advertisement can be heavily made.
    Perhaps a model of mixed income would come up; on this model primarily the highest importance would be of the consumers. To resist the death of news media and profession of journalism probably their role would be predominant. Because, without news media they can’t go; from the gathering of social communication media and the other media or platforms people, citizens and individuals are bound to return at the end of the day to their trustworthy news media for finding the truth. Perhaps that savior of journalism and news media would be consumer-customer, that means subscriber.
    Side by side customer-based income, some income from advertisement would be there; with it perhaps the new arrangement of revenue sharing with the non-journalistic media would be annexed. Because everyone including facebook-google are using the contents made by news media and would do so in future. As soon as a business model of mixed income would be developed the crisis of journalism would go away rapidly. Newyork Times is noticed to advance along that path.E
  • Senior Assistant Editor, Prothom Alo and Litterateur.
    ** Translated into English by ‘The Economy’ Analyst.

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