Freelance Writer & Journalist


Envisioning the Future of International Journalism

Posted by stephaniehughes95 on April 12, 2016 at 12:10 AM

International journalism is going through various transitions, one of the main ones being the change from traditional media to digital media. I think the future of international journalism will be less boots-on-the-ground as an approach as will rely increasingly on citizen journalism and social media from locals. With the lack of funding that news sources put into international embassies, a continuously connected world is important. However, these new methods won’t lose sight of in-person reportage.

Trends like citizen journalism is playing a greater part in foreign reporting which lends to traditional news outlets in the West like The Guardian and The New York Times. Social media, as many others in the industry have noticed, provides leads and information as soon as the event happens. Both traditional and digital native news outlets benefit from this form of citizen journalism, keeping international reportage alive while funding for the orthodox method (experts, embassies, translators, fixers, transport, etc.) is in decline.

“The implosion of the old-media business model has not yet been matched by an explosion in new media investment in foreign reporting -- and that's a serious problem,” explained Mitch Potter, the Washington Bureau reporter for the Toronto Star. He also went on to explain while citizen journalism is picking up some of the slack, it can easily be manipulated and it’s not enough to sustain in-depth news delivery that comes with being there in person: “Bottom line: there is no perfect substitute for actual reporting boots on the ground and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Olivia Ward, a Toronto Star foreign affairs reporter, has an equally neutral outlook on the future of international journalism and the gap presented by the older in-depth methods fading away and the emergence of digital foreign reporting. She described the instant info-gratification nature of the readership and how this factors into how much time and money news companies are willing to put into a story if it really only amounts to a five minute curiosity amongst the audience. “Infotainment has taken over much of the room, too, leaving less time or space for serious foreign reporting.”

While Ward also advocates the “boots on the ground” approach, she agrees that it’s becoming a less attainable tactic because of a lack of resources and a refusal to be held accountable for a reporter’s safety. “Journalists are no longer ‘guests’ to be aided or protected in their mission to publish what is happening on the ground, but kidnap targets to be used for propaganda, political bargaining or injections of cash,” she bleakly describes, “And the line between criminal gangs, militias and terrorists is ever more blurred.”

The future of international journalism leaves an ambiguous foresight, largely because people either lean towards the traditional methods or the social media citizen journalism method. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that the future will likely have elements of both in reporter’s methods. In this odd transitory phase, I doubt that tradition will die because there are idealistic reporters that refuse to take social media or public relations reports at face value. While citizen journalism provides a great step-up and lead, it won’t completely take over the idea of a young reporter trekking through foreign lands to cover the next conflict.

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