Audience Obligations

The conflict between the systemic traditional style of journalism and the narrative style supported by the proponents of new journalism can be viewed as a result of the radically different ways both schools of thought seek to fulfill a fundamental journalistic obligation to inform their audiences. However, the transition from print to digital journalism has added an additional layer to this complex conflict, as the blurring of the lines between those who cover the news and those who consume it has given audiences an unprecedented amount of control over what is reported and how it is covered. In such a participatory culture one must question whether or not it is as important for audience members to seek out socially relevant stories as it is for journalists to produce them.

One example of the effect the public has had upon traditional reporting in the digital age can be seen in the increasingly condensed way journalists present news stories to the audience. The reverse pyramid style of reporting has been an element of journalism since the traditional print era. However, in the current audience controlled digital age the pyramid has been reduced to short blurbs that seek to compress complex events into a 120 character summation. This isn’t the result of journalistic laziness. Stories that offer complete narrative of incomplete events provide a greater sense of closure to an audience that requires immediate gratification. It is these short interesting pieces that will earn the most hits, produce the most revenue, and inevitably become the standard way by which the news is covered.

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