Has the Internet Age ruined Journalism?

By Dan Archer

This November – Dawna Friesen – previously a correspondent for NBC News and now the chief television anchor and executive editor of Global News, recently spoke about the importance of journalism at the Manitoba Business Awards banquet organized by the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce. In her speech, Friesen restated a thought most of us agree on: journalism as we’ve known it is experiencing a radical alteration. Of course, the internet represents a media revolution. The internet has been positive for us so far – aiding us to consume, market, share and participate in communications throughout the world. However, Friesen is anxious about the internet, with her sights set on fake news generated by trolls.      

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“The model of the traditional newspaper, radio and TV station is broken. Advertisers are going elsewhere — mostly online,” Friesen said. “An army of online trolls and activists question the veracity of stories they don’t like, attack individual journalists they don’t like, and ridicule institutions that for decades have been trusted sources of news.”

Bear in mind, Friesen is an honest, truthful journalist, but independent media on the left and right could argue she’s always represented the views of big money. Friesen worked as a foreign correspondent for NBC – an American multinational conglomerate owned by Comcast and headquartered at the Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan. Corus, a media conglomerate based in Toronto, owns Global News. But journalism on the internet is grassroots-based. Clips and blogs are uploaded or published out of garages, apartments, cafes or basements. Studios aren’t necessary, neither are budgets. Web media is also fast-paced, non-elitist and democratic. Certainly, the internet is a fantastic development, but Friesen’s concerns are genuine enough. According to Friesen, the internet will soon become our only source of information, where news is often falsified. In defence of the internet, I believe media in the information age is an excellent global platform for information and communications. And if anyone owns a laptop, they can produce video clips or publish blogs. Steve Huffman, Reddit’s CEO, also respects the democratic values embodied by the internet. “These days, I tend to say that we’re a place for open and honest conversations – open and honest’ meaning authentic, meaning messy, meaning the best and worst and realest and weirdest parts of humanity.”

However, this ultra-democratic media format is not without faults. Remember Pizzagate? Conspiracies about a Democrat-led sex ring floating on sites like Twitter and 4Chan influenced Edgar Welch to travel from North Carolina to fire a rifle inside Comet Ping Pong – a Washington DC pizzeria. Internet-based fallacies such as Pizzagate continue to multiply and grow in popularity. And nobody has showcased internet conspiracies like Alex Jones – a master troll ranting about lizard people, fluoride mind control and massive voter fraud on Infowars, an internet program once boasting millions of subscribers, including the current U.S. president. But intelligent news is also accessible on the internet – the decision is left to viewers to click on or subscribe to truthful media sources.

In Ecclesiastes, King Solomon wrote “there is no new thing under the sun.” And fake news has existed a long time before Facebook, Twitter and smartphones. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1817, John Adams discussed his views on the free press, which he supported, but America’s second president also knew how gullible people could be. Squished between other philosophical notions, Adams wrote “On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows.”