Out with the Old News and in with Digital Journalism

What is digital journalism and what purpose does it serve?

Ellie Munford
4 min readDec 26, 2020
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Digital journalism is generally recognised as being any form of journalistic content posted online but there is no set definition for it. I would argue that the emphasis for this kind of content should be on the ‘digital’ as opposed to the ‘journalism’ since it is this digitisation that increasingly restructures the form in which journalistic content is produced. With this being said, digital journalism is able to exist in multiple formats such as audio and video form as well as text since it does not have to be printed. This digital aspect also means it’s content travels faster than traditional journalism since people use the internet to access news and events 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Given its flexibility, people are able to fit news into their busy lives on their own schedule meaning the content that is produced is often shorter: articles are condensed, GIF’s turn a video into a seconds glance and news outlets offer 15 second snippets of longer interviews.

What do digital journalists do?

The role of a digital journalist is largely to compile content from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with a focus on getting as much information into a short space. To do this, digital journalists will use hyperlinks to insert information about the topic or to videos and photos that have been posted elsewhere, often to YouTube without adding to the length of the story. One mustn’t forget however, that there are significant legal aspects that relate to the usage of other people’s content such as copyright and plagiarism. Additionally, the online nature of digital journalism enables far more interactivity than has ever been possible before the internet. One of the most effective ways for journalists to engage with their readers is through the comments section. This allows for direct feedback on their stories or the content they publish which in turn enables them to tailor their writing to suit readership. Before, journalists would have had to telephone PR offices for information but now they can do a lot of research through social media, looking at the profiles of companies and the personal account of business individuals associated with them. Journalists will also follow and monitor stories using #hashtags. A hashtag will be a word or phrase associated with a specific story or cultural discourse that gets mentioned every time a social media user wishes to engage with this topic. This makes it possible to scroll through masses of information and public opinion from which journalists can extract key points for use in their narrative.

“This kind of discourse tagging is the beginning of searchable talk, a changing social relations whereby we mark our discourse so that it can be found by others in effect so that we can bond around particular values.” Michelle Zappavigna

Why do we need independent journalists?

As well as the nature of journalism adapting to the internet, the role of a journalist as an employee for a larger journalistic company has also changed. Independent writers contrast traditional media as the emergence of digital technology as a source of news and information indicates a radical shift away from large organisations as gatekeepers of news and resources. These journalists see independence as the best way to maintain integrity. You need to be free of entanglements with the government and other powerful institutions of the community, so you can cover them without fear or favor. The advent of social media allows journalists to break away from media outlets to be individual writers on topics of their own choosing in their own personal tone and style. It is their niche and unique preoccupations that become a journalists most valuable attribute in a saturated media landscape of blanket marketing for profit. When only a few big media outlets dominate the news coverage, certain voices go unheard. Independent writers have a unique opportunity to go beyond the conventions and limitations of bigger news organisations to work on topics that matter to the people that wouldn’t otherwise get a seat at the table.

Quality information is the starting point for significant change. If you don’t shine a bright light on an issue that matters to you, then how will it ever get solved? With a world of information out there jostling for your attention, read, write and engage.

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Ellie Munford

Blogger | Conversationalist | Feminist | Digital journalism should be your primary source of news — Change my mind?