John Oliver did a fantastic spiel on the integration of ads into our media (last post that mentions him for a while, I promise). He talked about how our reluctance to pay for hard news sources - which they obviously require to stay in business - is killing off unbiased, more traditional journalism, as the papers are having to turn to sponsored articles. Or rather, as he puts it, news articles with marketing slyly baked in like raisins into a cookie. And as he accurately notes, nobody likes raisins.
The foundation of American journalism is that editorial - or rather, opinion pieces - are kept separate from the neutral hard news pieces. But as journalists are finding, fewer and fewer people interested anymore in real journalism. Nowadays, it's damn near impossible to get hits on a print article from the millennial generation unless you call it something along the lines of "12 Schools in the Gaza Strip that Needed a Makeover Anyway."
Alternately, look at the sales of magazines such as OK! and US Weekly compared to print versions of the New York Times, which blare titles of "*Insert Celebrity You've Never Heard of Here* ENGAGED TO *Insert Name of Other Celebrity You've Never Heard of*!" Or "Prince George Does a Burp and it has a Little Vomit In It" (seriously, why do Americans care so much about this bloody baby? Or the Royal Family in general? That's a topic for a different post.)
Case in point, motoring journalist/generally un-PC British personality, Jeremy Clarkson, recently wrote an editorial for the Sunday Times about the death of his mother. It was quite touching, and very honest. But because the newspaper's website said I was going to have to pay for it, I simply googled the article with the word "free" at the end, and found it in screenshots on a different popular site. I feel a little bad about it as he's someone I do admire and have a lot of time for - and therefore would like to contribute to his income, however large that may already be - but I also live by the mantra an English teacher of mine once told me about the internet and stealing: "You can't nail a $100 bill down in your front yard and expect nobody to steal it."
But as a journalism major, this topic is rather important to me. My whole first year of college was spent dodging the question of "well, isn't journalism dead?" That and many of my fellow classmates whose career aspirations were to host E News! Point being, even the upcoming generation of journalists don't care about cold, nonpartisan, strictly informative journalism. The few who want to engage in print are leaning towards shit slinging at celebrities, or blogging opinion pieces. I personally haven't made up my mind what I want to do with a journalism major, but look at me go with my own stereotype!
We millennials are consistently referred to as self-indulgent, and would rather consume our news in the form of .gifs and 140 character tweets than long investigative articles in black and white. This is partly to do with that how we consume media has changed. No longer do we sit down with a newspaper in the morning, instead we might scroll through a headline article on our phones on the subway to work. Even new blogging/story writing platform Medium has little notes at the side of their post, telling us how much time it's going to take to read the damn article, so we can judge if it's worth our precious time.
Another fact that can't be ignored is that traditional, unbiased journalism is pretty depressing. Our generation has enough going on in our lives to bum us out, what with college debts skyrocketing (I should've gone back to England), unemployment still at a scarily high rate, and the rent for our desired lifestyle of the inner city exorbitantly high. I can't blame people for not wanting to read about what's going on in Syria. Because it's not news of how many children are smiling and singing about happy rainbows right now. And that's abroad, it's equally depressing here at home, as I just mentioned. Why else do you think articles with the headline "Most Heartwarming Thing You'll Read All Day" get so many clicks?
What it comes down to is that our generation is financially strapped to begin with, and aren't going to pay for things we don't have to. And we feel that traditional hard journalism is one of the things we can sacrifice, as we've also been taught to trust Ronald McDonald since before we came out the womb. In other words, we're quite happy to read sponsored, subtle sales pitch articles, because it's ingrained in us to trust the products sponsoring them, and we can watch a few cute sloths on the same site afterwards.
No, traditional journalism isn't dead, as the melodramatic baby boomers who drove this country's economy into the ground would have you believe. However, much like dating culture, retail, and women's rights, with our upcoming generation (that will be paying for your nursing homes, so be nice) it's once again changing drastically. We don't seem to mind that there are raisins in our cookies. It would be a change, but our changes seem to be working for us. Our changes seem good. It's how we progress as a society and as a species. One kitten .gif at a time.
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