What Issues Do Journalists Face Today?

Issues and Controversies in Journalism

World newspapers at NY news stand
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There's never been a more tumultuous time in the news business. Newspapers are drastically downsizing and facing bankruptcy or the prospect of going out of business entirely. Web journalism is on the rise and taking many forms, but there are real questions about whether it can really replace newspapers.

Press freedom, meanwhile, continues to be nonexistent or under threat in many countries around the world.

There are also controversies about issues like journalistic objectivity and fairness that continue to rage. It seems like a tangled mess at times, but there are many factors involved that we'll examine in detail.

Print Journalism in Peril

Newspapers are in trouble. Circulation is dropping, ad revenue is shrinking, and the industry has experienced an unprecedented wave of layoffs and cutbacks. So what does the future hold?

While some people will argue that newspapers are dead or dying, many traditional outlets are indeed adapting to the new digital world. Most offer all of their content online—either to subscribers or for free—and this goes for other media outlets like TV and radio as well. 

Though it seemed at first as if modern technology would win out over tradition, the tide seems to be finding a balance. For example, local papers are discovering new ways to localize a story to attract readers interested in a smaller piece of the bigger picture.

The Rise of Web Journalism

With the decline of newspapers, web journalism seems to be the future of the news business. But what exactly do we mean by web journalism? And can it really replace newspapers?

In general terms, web journalism includes bloggers, citizen journalists, hyper-local news sites, and even websites for print papers.

The internet certainly opened up the world for more people to write whatever they want, but that doesn't mean all of these sources have the same credibility.

Bloggers, for instance, tend to focus on a niche topic, as do citizen journalists. Because some of these writers do not have training in or necessarily care about the ethics of journalism, their personal bias can come across in what they write. This is not what we consider "journalism" per say.

Journalists are concerned with the facts, getting to the heart of the story, and have their own on-the-job lingo. Digging for answers and telling them in objective ways has long been a goal of professional reporters. Indeed, many of these professionals have found an outlet in the online world, which makes it tricky for news consumers.

Some bloggers and citizen journalists are unbiased and produce great news reports. Likewise, some professional journalists are not objective and lean one way or another on political and social issues. This burgeoning online outlet has created all types on either side. This is the larger dilemma because it is now up to readers to decide what is credible and what is not.

Press Freedoms and Reporters' Rights

In the United States, the press enjoys a great deal of freedom to report critically and objectively on the important issues of the day.

This freedom of the press is granted by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In much of the world, press freedom is either limited or virtually nonexistent. Reporters are often thrown in jail, beaten, or even killed just for doing their jobs. Even in the U.S. and other free-press countries, journalists face ethical dilemmas about confidential sources, disclosing information, and cooperating with law enforcement.

All of these things are of great concern and debate to professional journalism. However, it is unlikely to be anything that resolves itself in the near future.

Bias, Balance, and an Objective Press

Is the press objective? Which news outlet is really fair and balanced, and what does that actually mean? How can reporters set aside their biases and really report the truth?

These are some of the biggest questions of modern journalism.

Newspapers, cable television news, and radio broadcasts have all come under fire for reporting stories with a bias. This can be seen with great magnitude in political reporting, and even some stories that should not be politicized fall victim to it.

A perfect example can be found on cable TV nws. You can watch the same story on two networks and get to completely different perspectives. The political divide has indeed swept into some aspects of journalism, in print, on air, and online. Thankfully, a number of reporters and outlets have kept bias in check and continue to tell the story in a fair and balance manner.