by Juliana Scannelli ('23)
Traditional journalism has been on the proverbial ropes for quite some time as short-form media on TikTok and Instagram continue to grow. Traditional journalism consisted of major news companies (newspaper, radio, or television) hiring trained and educated journalists to be the world’s ‘watch dogs’. Traditional journalists were tasked with the job of reporting and ‘exposing the truth’ of public institutions in a neutral and balanced way.
The new form of journalism that seems to be changing the industry is known as citizen journalism, meaning podcasts, blogs, and social media. Citizen journalism is a less prestigious form of journalism as most people posting to their blogs are not required to be schooled in the protocols of traditional journalism.
English teacher, Mr. Peter Honig wrote for the ‘Times Community Newspaper’ in Northern Virginia from 2001-’03. His first position was covering sports (primarily high school level) but later, he moved up the job ladder to become the editor of the entertainment section titled the “Weekender”.
He said, “The social media environment tends to favor more sensationalist stories, and many writers will seek the quick benefits of clickbait or superficial reporting to more sustained and thorough acts of journalism. Since budgets are small, many writers lack the resources they need to fully report a story. And even if they do, the use of freelance writers often means that young journalists don’t get the mentoring that they used to get when there were larger staffs and more publications.”
With STEM classes at SBHS becoming more prevalent, the career path for journalism students is becoming narrower. And in the eyes of Generation Z, traditional journalism might be a thing of the past, especially since everything can be within reach of news in seconds due to platforms like TikTok. This platform provides content as short as fifteen seconds or as long as three minutes, fitting perfectly within the short attention span of many people.
Senior and Viking Minute videographer, Matthew Nelson said, “I think that the majority of teenagers have an interest in the world around them. It’s just that they may not be interested in traditional media outlets. In my opinion, the reason that short-form journalism is so popular is due to the lowered attention spans in terms of content. This is not always by choice for students though. Many teenagers are wrapped up in schoolwork, SATs, college applications and so much more. It’s hard to devote a lot of time to content when attention needs to be focused elsewhere.”
Nelson is not far off as research shows that in 2015 people had an average attention span of eight seconds. Humans lose their attention faster than goldfish do! With COVID being a major factor in the amount of media intake students had, it is not hard to understand why Gen. Z might be struggling with reading the traditional journalism of the New York Times and the Washington Post. And with the popular phrase of ‘fake news’ arising in the last six years, it is understandable why some might be turning the traditional evening 5 o’clock news off to look to their phones for information.
Reuters Institute conducted a series of studies, in 2020, to develop an understanding of where short-form journalism stands in the world. Even with the decline of interest in news and selective avoidance, “TikTok has become the fastest growing network in this year’s survey, reaching 40% of 18-24s, with 15% using the platform for news.”
TikTok news is on an upward trend and major news companies are starting to recognize the site for its power. News platforms are creating TikTok accounts of their own to spread their news while other creators give their take or provide more information on certain topics.
According to The Guardian, “Nearly twice as many users say they get information from other people they follow on the app as opposed to news organizations.” So what does that mean?
It is fairly easy for anyone to get trapped in a loop of information and short-form journalism because of advertisement targeting. You like a picture or an ad and the advertisement continues to pop up on your feed, hence your ‘For You Page’.
Former journalism student, Isabella Kenyon (‘24) said, “I think teenagers are interested in news that aligns with their beliefs. That’s why receiving news through social media is so popular. It provides a biased perspective on current events.”
There seems to be a disconnect between news nowadays and news before social media especially since some fake news still perseveres.
Journalism teacher and Advisor Andrew Loh said, “Social Media has censors, so they only put in what they want you to read. They are not objective sources because by their nature they are controlling what you read and how you interpret it. So I would say that no social media is a good source of news.”
There are many great factors of new form journalism because it is easy to access and people can get a lot of information in a brief amount of time, which in our fast-paced world is good. However, as seen from the interviewees, there is some skepticism about whether or not short-form journalism is actually safe. There is no physical harm to short-form journalism or news on TikTok but everyone should just be aware that there could be some false advertising of that news and it is up to the reader to try and distinguish right from wrong.
Within SBHS, the traditional journalism classes where students write articles about anything they are passionate about are starting to have fewer and fewer kids as the years' progress, thinning out only those who enjoy writing. Most kids in SBHS do not even know that the school has a newspaper that allows for passion-based, yet objective writing. As STEM classes take over in South Brunswick, it will be interesting to see what will happen to the class. It will also then become interesting to see how traditional journalism finally plays out and what the victorious form of journalism will be.