The Internet will not hurt and may even foster quality journalism, allowing for increased collaboration, faster dissemination of information, a greater voice for independent news sources, and heightened competition for uncovering provoking stories and getting facts right in the process.
One critique of digital journalism is that news sources that strive for journalistic quality and objectivity will lose out to purveyors of news with more blatant spin. This includes sources with a heavy political bias, tabloids with sensationalizing tendencies, or organizations that prioritize entertainment value over objective reporting.
These critiques, however, are unwarranted, and the future of accountable and investigative journalism is promising. Leonard Downie, Jr. and Michael Schudson, in a report published in the Columbia Journalism Review, give a brief history of the rise of “accountability journalism” during the mid-20th century to argue that digital journalism does not show any signs of being less accountable than its print predecessors. In fact, online sources may even be more accountable than print journalism by fostering journalistic collaboration and allowing for independent news sources to find a greater audience.
Mary Kissel, in an editorial for The Guardian, takes another angle in arguing that journalistic standards will not decline online. Kissel argues that the increased competition between older, larger print-based establishments and newer, leaner online sources will increase journalistic quality and integrity. Kissel writes that “quality journalism, of the kind that informs the public, enriches democracy, and tempts readers to buy it” will not diminish with the rise of digital news sources. Either established organizations, with reputations for quality journalism, will make the successful transition to the online market, or the void will be filled by newer organizations that will build reputations for real journalism. With so many options, readers can easily move away from a news source that consistently reports incorrect information.
One example of an online news source that emphasizes edgy, investigative journalism is Vice News, and older establishments have begun to take notice. In his media column, David Carr of The New York Times describes how an important part of Vice News’ competitive strategy is to deliver better quality journalism that “is deadly serious about doing real news that people, yes, even young people, will actually watch.” Carr writes how one of Vice’s founders bragged that “while he and his colleagues were reporting serious stories detailing human waste on a beach and cannibalism in Liberia, The New York Times had busied itself writing about surfing in the same region.” And Vice is only one example of how quality journalism may even be an asset in the online sphere.