Not all news is equal

Anyone going into the field of journalism knows they can’t expect to make a ton of money right off the bat, or possibly at all. Journalism is constantly in the bottom tiers of reports that rank college majors and fields of studies from most to least profitable.

As a committed journalism major who knew all of this going into it, it doesn’t bother me at all. I’d much rather make a decent living doing something I’m passionate about than making a bit more money and working a job I get no satisfaction out of. The prospect of getting paid to go out and see, experience and do things, then getting paid to report and write about it in my own words sounds more like a reward than a job.

I’m fully aware that not all journalism majors end up getting the opportunity to have such a job, or even a job in the field of journalism, and I’ll admit I would probably settle for any communications-related position once I graduate given the poor job market. However, I do feel journalists are highly underpaid.

Journalists sell news and information, and news and information have become incredibly easy to access. There is an extensive supply of information for free on the internet. Consistent with the law of supply and demand, journalism has become less profitable because of this.

People tend to take access to information for granted these days, like it’s just an everyday part of life that should automatically be relayed to them just for being a member of modern-day society.

Everyone knows why people won’t pay for news – because they can get it for free. And why should they?

You shouldn’t pay for news just because of the process that goes into it – the gathering of information, the transformation of that information into a well-constructed story, and the editing to make sure the right words are used – the words that most accurately portray the story or news event being described. You shouldn’t pay for news simply because of the process, but you should pay for the quality and reliability of the process.

Misinformation is a present and growing problem in today’s linked-in society. Along with anyone being able to access information, anyone can also create it.

I’ve come across a lot of links to news stories on Twitter, Facebook and other internet information sources that contain a story that is well-written and seems credible, but actually isn’t.

The problem is that many people will blindly trust any news they come across on the internet. Just because a story is written well doesn’t mean it’s all true. Unfortunately though, the fact that such content is out there is often enough to gain the attention and vote of confidence of the average internet user.

Sometimes, these unreliable news sources post stories that are entirely synthetic, based around an event that didn’t even happen; a story sold as fact when in reality it’s as fictional as Harry Potter. Other times, they post sensationalized stories of actual events, feeding off reliable news sources and adding to their stories to make them more interesting, even if it means adding in a bit of made-up nonsense. In both cases, their aim is not to create a credible and reliable name in any circle, but rather to gain advertising revenue via hits.

Also taking away from the profitability of journalism are news leeches (I’m not sure if that’s the actual term, but it seems appropriate). News leeches are sources that don’t actually gather information first-hand, but rather readily gather breaking news from other sources and re-post it, often stealing attention, and revenue, from actual sources that gather the information themselves. The chances are that if you read news from Twitter or Facebook, you’ve read news from a leech source.

Even if you’re not directly paying for the unreliable news you come across, you are indirectly with your time. Time is money, and if you’re spending time reading something you might as well be spending money on it. Someone gains it every time you click a link.

Before purchasing a car, people will do research to make sure it’s a reliable vehicle. People will be conscience of buying name brand over off brand products, but will buy into any news that seems credible even if they haven’t heard of the publisher.

How much do you value your knowledge and credibility? If at all, it’s worth spending the time or money on reliable journalism.

If you’re the type of person that floats around the internet clicking any news item/story that gains your attention, stop. By becoming an educated consumer of information, you’ll be helping yourself by knowing what you read and share with others is credible and well-reported, but you’ll be contributing to the state of journalism and making sure that deserving creators of news are receiving the benefit of your time and/or money.

Whether it’s buying a reliable news source application on your tablet or phone, subscribing to the digital version of a newspaper or even being old-fashioned and purchasing an actual newspaper or magazine, you’re not wasting your money – you’re investing in the worth of your knowledge.

If a quality, reliable news source requires you to watch a short advertisement video before reading their story, don’t be the person who complains about it. Remember that multiple people spent a lot of time gathering and assembling that information for you, and that advertising is one of the main sources of their (probably too low) income.

The New York Times recently released an improved version of their free app for eight dollars a month. I’m sure most people will scoff at the idea of paying for it, especially given that there’s a completely free (much more advertisement-riddled) version. But to those who realize all news is not equal, it’s more than worth it.

The point is that as a society we take information for granted, and as information consumers we invest our time and money in the wrong places, and it has hurt the profitability of journalism greatly. I will never base my pursuit of a journalistic career around monetary gain, but I will always petition for the rights of reliable news sources and the exploitation of their efforts by news leeches and those who sensationalize.

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