The Changing of the Guard

The evolution of technology is changing the roles of journalism

Story by Elizabeth Briggs

As a cop mercilessly pepper sprays a peaceful protestor at the Occupy Wall Street movement, a passerby films what will soon become a YouTube phenomenon. Exposing how quickly a police officer overstepped his boundaries, an average person recorded a newsworthy video with a mediocre camera phone.

Today, not only do people want their news and want it fast, they also want to participate and report for the news. Martin Tolchin coined this new media trend as civilian journalism at the University of Utah’s 15th annual Siciliano Forum.

The colossal impact of new technology has left many to think that the future of journalism is dead. Despite the significant decrease of newspaper readership, Tolchin, drawing on experience as the founder of The Hill newspaper and Politico and over 40 years with the New York Times has an optimistic view about journalism’s fate.

In a time where print journalism is struggling to earn a profit, Tolchin keeps what some deem an eccentric outlook. He spoke about how before online media, mainstream print media was the gatekeeper of information, publishing only the things it reasoned newsworthy. Pronouncing the end of an era, Tolchin expressed an undeniable enthusiasm to the challenge online social media has incurred to this role of authority. Unlike twenty years ago, journalists now look to the Internet, in order to find leads from the common citizen.

Tolchin is a fan of the upcoming civilian journalism and likes how technological advancements have brought new opportunities. He added to this saying, “At each stage of technology, people can begin to deliver more information and access it easier. Until now, information has never been greater needed and essential to democracy.”

However, with the abundance of information and media, Tolchin mentioned how American’s attention has shifted from hard to sensational news, outlining how priorities have changed. In one of his very few discouraging remarks he said, “I think that if you surveyed, Americans would better identify a liquor company than a news organization.”  Cody Salrin, a student at Utah said, “ I think that even with the new wealth of information, people need to work harder to be informed.”

While it is great that social media has allowed people to express their opinions and expose political scandals, people have stopped checking credibility and rushed to conclusions based on illegitimate evidence.

Nick Dunn, the political reporter for the Daily Utah Chronicle, added to this conflict saying, “The fact that citizens cannot discern good journalism from bad journalism is one of the biggest problems with our society. It means that people do not know how to consume good information, which is important when going into the voting booth.”

So instead of succumbing to Kim Kardashian’s divorce drama this week, empower the mind with global information and the things that will actually affect America’s future. Make a difference in the voting booth by being an active and participatory citizen. Pay attention to the things happening in the world, partake in the news and make the decisions that count.