A society changed by journalists or a journalism changed by society?

Bilal delivering his speech (Picture by Seok-Jae Kang)

Bilal Bassal delivering his speech (Picture by Seok-Jae Kang)

By Bilal Bassal

Text of the speech delivered by Bilal Bassal at the World Journalists Conference (WJC 2022)

The press was and still plays an essential role in directing the general thought of the people, whether at the local, regional, or global levels. But is its role still as crucial as before the advent of modern technology, or what is called “web journalism”?

With the emergence and spread of digital journalism at a tremendous speed, journalists worldwide are realizing that there is indeed a danger to traditional journalism. As the latter has lost a lot of its audience, some analysts even predict its demise soon. But the real problem is not in the survival or end of the paper press, but in the loss of credibility of press information, which can become, or somewhat has already become, a real danger that can change an entire society.

We cannot do any injustice to the traditional press, which took some time to deal with the new situation and understand how it works, especially on a commercial level. In its infancy, the electronic press canceled the idea of selling the paper product and replaced it with a free electronic product, which directly contributed to the loss of many distinguished journalists of their jobs. It opened the way for journalism to become accessible to all universally.

Yes, here the change began, and the real problem with the journalism profession started. I am not talking about paper journalism, but journalism in general. Despite all the advantages of electronic journalism, on top of which is freedom of expression for all. Unfortunately, it has brought many problems, especially to societies with all its components, whether professional, cultural, political, or health, which is the worst.

Studies have begun to prove the harmful effects of electronic journalism on physical and psychological health, not reflected in particular societies but rather in the global community.

During the hurricane of electronic change, the profession of journalism passed a challenging test, especially when it became available to everyone, without accountability or control. A project to create a newspaper requires studies and a substantial financial budget. Also, one of its most important objectives is to secure a decent income for the journalists to devote themselves to writing serious and in-depth articles. How can this project compete with another one that seeks to create an electronic newspaper that could be released, for FREE?

Society was affected by the emergence of thousands of electronic newspapers. “free content” became the most popular, especially among the middle and poor groups, which represent the main component in most, if not all, societies. Here the real danger began, not because the authentic or committed press is no longer accessible to everyone, but rather because it has melted into a sea of electronic journalism saturated with lies and misinformation.

It was awful but quickly became much worse with the advent of Social Media, which can be called Social Destruction, despite all its advantages. Most of its users, intentionally or unintentionally, became journalists “against their will,” circulating and promoting news and information, wishing they were without a source, stolen or fake.

I can cite many examples of how online journalism has transformed entire societies, but these examples are quickly becoming, thanks to the Internet, popular and accessible. The most crucial topic to discuss here is that serious journalism was and still is a prestigious and respected profession by everyone.

But, the pioneers of the new press world, as mentioned before, are now us! Yes, everyone can access the Internet and write what he likes, publish news, discredit another, etc… So, the real journalists can still change and influence societies like in the past after all that was mentioned? Are they still capable of changing Society, or was the Society itself the one that changed them?

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