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The demise of traditional journalism

By Murray Hunter - posted Friday, 16 February 2024

Back in the 1960s and 70s, the media was referred to as 'The Fourth Estate'. The media played a role as a check and balance against government abuse of power, corruption, and overreach. The media was an integral part of any healthy democracy.

The old mass media companies prior to the information age, now referred to as the legacy media, carried a reputation for hard headed journalism, which exposed scandals without fear or favour. Walter Cronkite was an icon of creditability and trust in the media. The spirit of journalistic purity was symbolised by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's expose of the Watergate break in and subsequent cover up.

Journalism was once a career many aspired to as a noble profession, embedded with ethics and a sense for telling the truth. Some journalists became legendary, after rigorous years of apprenticeship involving hardship and dangerous assignments, where their lives were sometimes at risk. There was a distinct career path, beginning as a junior reporter, beat journalist, investigative journalist, to correspondent, columnist, through to editor. However, most of this generation of modern journalists are long gone.


The fall of nobility

Over the last three decades the craft of journalism has been losing integrity. This has become much more rapid over the last few years. Mainstream media jobs have disappeared, as local and beat journalism has waned, which was once a traditional training ground.

Journalists have been forced by their employers to create stories from narratives. Facts now play a secondary role in the creation of 'propaganda' pieces. Very few journalists questioned the narrative of 'weapons of mass destruction' before the invasion of Iraq. No journalists questioned the narrative of governments during the Covid pandemic, and very few are willing to critically examine the narrative of climate change. The same is occurring over the Russo-Ukraine conflict. Tucker Carlson's recent interview of Russin President Vladimir Putin was ridiculed by the mainstream media, rather than being seen as important piece of journalism capturing the Russian side of the story.

Most journalists working toady in the mainstream media are acting for partisan interests. Some use the word 'presstitute' to describe the profession today.

The symbol of today's discredited media are the Pulitzer prizes given in 2018 regarding Russian election meddling awarded to the New York Times and Washington Post, which was later found to be a complete hoax.

What has destroyed traditional journalism?


With the concentration of media ownership over the last couple of decades, organization rationalization has drastically reduced the number of jobs available.

Various media groups have pushed their own editorial lines. This has led to polarization of the media, across a spectrum of bias.

The release of the 'Twitter files' exposed the close relation ship the social media platform had with the various security agencies in the United States. Other disclosures around the world have shown that governments had been leaning on social media platforms to censor criticism. There is no question, governments have (and are) working in collusion with the major social media platforms.

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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis. He blogs at Murray Hunter.

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