The Internet, sometimes simply called “the Net,” is a worldwide system of computer networks. It is a network of networks in which users of any computer can, if they have permission and connectivity, get information from any other computer (and sometimes talk directly to users of other computers). It allows exchange of information between two or more computers on a network. Thus, internet helps in transfer of messages through mail, chat, video/ audio conference, among others.
The internet has done a lot of good to the world by making life easier for people but in the field of journalism, the internet appears to be doing more harm than good. One of the basic disadvantages of the internet to Journalism is citizen journalism.
Citizen journalism is a branch of journalism that is conducted by people who are not professional journalists but who disseminate information using websites, blogs and social media platforms. People in this category do not have the full knowledge about what journalism entails. It is a phenomenon in which individual members of the society create news content. Lay people without a background in journalism gather, develop, distribute and share news content, occupying the role previously held by professional journalists. It is a reversal of the traditional journalist-audience relationship.
They are not trained in the journalism profession hence do not know the ethics, rules and regulations governing journalism. They are prone to disseminating information, ideas or messages which do not follow the gatekeeping process of journalism. Hence, such information could be false, fake or manipulated. When citizen journalists tend to get an information about a situation or happening, their aim is to publicise the information gotten without going through the gatekeeping process which filters such information and make it look presentable to the audience. They tend to disseminate the information with out knowing the procedure, guidelines and steps to follow before publicising such information which has made it possible for almost everyone with internet access to become a blogger/ “journalist.”
Another disadvantage of the internet to journalism is that it has rendered graduates in the field of Mass Communication/ journalism jobless as people who are not trained in the profession and have no knowledge about it have overshadowed the people who practice journalism as everyone is free to upload information without being verified. This is a setback to the print media especially newspapers and magazines because people no longer patronise them despite their originality and survivability.
Another detriment of the internet on journalism is junk journalism or sensationalism/sensational journalism. In journalism/ mass media practice, sensationalism is a type of editorial tactic. Events and topics in news stories are selected and worded to excite the greatest number of readers and viewers without necessarily considering the objectivity, accuracy or truthfulness. Junk journalism is a news story that is written without adequate research, investigation or information before publication. Junk journalism is aimed at promoting traffic to news sites or to get public patronage by fabricating alarming pack of lies to newsreaders. This style of news reporting encourages biased or emotionally loaded impressions of events rather than neutrality, and may cause a manipulation to the truth of a story. Sensationalism may rely on reports about generally insignificant matters and portray them as a major influence on society, or biased presentations of newsworthy topics in a trivial or tabloid manner, contrary to general assumptions of professional journalistic standards. Sensationalism in journalism diverts the attention of the audience or readers to stories which may be truthful but do not pass the gatekeeping process there by rendering the actual work of a trained journalist in the the field of journalism irrelevant. This makes trained journalists to lose interest in the field.
It is pertinent for media watchers/ regulators like the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), to rise up to the occasion. Impacts of the internet on journalism should be monitored before the once revered profession is ruined. Blogging, vlogging and the online media should be closely watched. The professional body (and others) are expected to regulate the use of all these media of communication as the abuse by non professionals especially people who know nothing about the profession is becoming rampant. Just like the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) regulates the legal profession, that one without a certificate in law cannot practice law, the same should be applicable to journalism so as to make the profession more credible in the eyes of students studying the course, those aspiring to study it as well as the general public.
– Sani, a student of Mass Communication, writes from ABU Zaria.