Journalism has undergone a profound restructuring over the last 20 years with an increasing movement away from newsprint to the internet and social media. Many newspapers have been forced to adapt with a large number cutting their news coverage, shrinking their paper's size or ceasing to produce a print edition. Big papers have found ways to survive while many smaller papers have simply given up. Over the last 20 years it has also become more difficult for ordinary people to publish articles in many of the major newspapers.
The Opinion page offers one outlet but even that is now becoming dominated by paid journalists and academics, as well as including pieces sourced from international newspapers, and how difficult is it for an ordinary person ever to get an article published on the Features page of a major newspaper.
Over the last few decades newspapers have struggled to compete with on-line news sources which are free to readers. Some have sought solutions such as The Guardian which has tried to become a frontline leader for digital readers while at the same time managing to maintain a print edition aimed at those wanting a slower more reflective read.
For many people the primary source of news and information is now the internet and a new form of journalism has emerged placing emphasis on e-journalism, social media and blogging. In Australia we now have a number of e-journalism/social media sites, including On Line Opinion and The Conversation as well as easy access toLinkedin, Facebook andTwitter. Established 20years ago and well before the emergence of Facebook andTwitter, On Line Opinion an open access e-journal continues to have impact, encouraging articles on important social and political issues and allowing open comment on such articles. Its contributors include a wide range of politicians and academics as well as ordinary citizens.
Social media sites such as On Line Opinion are easily accessible, and offer the opportunity for people to engage in a discussion of important political and social issues either by writing a piece themselves or engaging in a vigorous commentary of the argument presented in a published piece. Such sites offer the opportunity of direct access to readers who have the opportunity to respond and express their views. Such material quickly becomes a forum of social and political debate highlighting issues of significance to contemporary Australian life. While at times the comment presented to a particular article may be seen to focus on a "dispute" between the views of differing commentators rather than addressing the original piece, it nonetheless provides an opportunity for people to express their feelings and engage in an open discussion.
Blogging has also become one of the most popular ways of communicating news and information usually in the form of an informational website on The Web largely consisting of information posts. Multi-author blogs particularly in newspapers and Universities have also become more popular featuring multiple authors.
To be sure there are some who continue to view the rapid move to embrace social media as an area of some concern. In 1996 the London Times Editor predicted:
( …….. ) that the internet will strut an hour upon the stage, and then take its place in the ranks of the lesser media.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Today the internet dominates in providing news and other information to hundreds of millions.
More recently a number of British MPs argued that the growing addiction to social media was akin to a disease, stating that sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which constantly compete for people to spend more time committed to their sites, were having a corrosive effect on young people. There is little doubt that people now spend a considerable amount of their lives on social media and for a small minority such addiction is becoming more common occasionally resulting in anxiety, depression and loneliness.
Be that as it may we have now entered a phase of citizen journalism so clearly delivered by On Line Opinion as well as on-line sitesdominated by academics, edited and overseen by professional journalists, such asThe Conversation while the use of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is fast becoming the cornerstone of everyday communication and connection.
In many ways social media has become an integral part of our lives. We use it to keep up with the news, to connect with family and friends and occasionally to write an important piece. In recognition of its growing importance a number of Universities are now offering on-line journalism courses to provide journalism skills for engaged citizens. Such is the case at Melbourne University as well as Universities in California, Cardiff and Strathclyde.
In the final analysis, On Line Opinion pioneered a new form of e-journalism for engaged citizens in Australia focusing on social and political debate about issues relevant to Australian society. For this it deserves considerable recognition.
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