It’s no big secret that technology is taking over a lot of things in our lives. Instead of telephone calls and e-mails, we have Facebook and text messages. Instead of playing board games and going outside, we have digital video games to play with each other. Physical books are also being rendered obsolete by eReaders.
This trend is also affecting our news sources, as many publications are shifting resources away from print towards digital. Because of this, many suggest print is either dying or dead. Is this true? And if it is true, what does it say about the mainstream media?
Jack Shafer of Politico wrote an interesting article not only making a case for print but also discussing the implications of the media shift towards digital. He refers to a study conducted by Neil Thurman that shows 88.5% of readers still read print, whereas 7.49% read on mobile and only 4% on PC. A University of Texas scholar conducted a similar study that criticized the digital shift, noting print is still profitable and even more so than digital.
So why does the mainstream media still insist on focusing its energy and resources towards digital instead of print?
The shift is representative of where the mainstream media finds itself today. Over the last year, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that honest, thorough journalism is a dying art. Instead of presenting the news in a neutral and impartial manner, many media outlets opt for pundits to interpret the news. Interpretation often translates into network bias, whether it be tilting to the left with CNN or MSNBC or right with Fox News.
Worse, is the hair trigger reporters and what they’re doing to the overall integrity of the news. Instead of following up on leads and doing a thorough investigation, journalists treat potential news like they’re standing in the middle of a duel. If they don’t draw their guns and fire fast, they’ve lost. In the age of digital, they’re become increasingly sloppy and possibly even more dishonest.
Studies show that sacrificing integrity for a digital quick draw isn’t worth it, as print still reigns supreme. Yet, digital still has an impact when a reporter fires fast.
Consider the case of Time Magazine’s White House Correspondent Zeke Miller, who incorrectly reported that President Donald Trump removed the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. When Miller did not spot the bust, he evidently did not seek comment from the President or anyone else in the Trump Administration. There was no honest fact-checking to maybe find out why the bust was removed. There was no attempt to see if perhaps the bust was just moved.
Instead, Miller just drew his pencil and fired before anyone else could steal the digital headline. The incorrect headline went viral. President Trump, who many liberals allege is racist, was reported by a major news outlet as having removed the bust of a prominent Civil Rights leader.
The retraction came within the hour, shortly after Miller discovered the bust hadn’t actually been moved or removed, it was just being hidden by a door and agent. It was there the whole time and this reporter could have found that out had he just inquired.
Neil Thurman’s study shows us the media obsession with reach is failing. “Reach” is a metric that doesn’t measure actual content review and absorption, but rather mere exposure to the brand. Digital is getting the focus and resources because many media leaders will tell you the reach is through the roof, even though the bulk of readers sit in print.
Is the mainstream media sacrificing depth and thoroughness for cheap headlines and reckless reporting? It would appear that they are shooting themselves in the foot with shallow goals.