There is little dispute that the modern media industry has reached an existential breaking point. Gone are the days when the news and the news alone acted as society’s voice of information. With the advent of the internet and social media, every single member of society has the opportunity to share their views with the entire world.

Social media certainly has great advantages for democratic society. Everyone with access to the internet has the opportunity to participate in conversation, search for information and perhaps even go viral.

However, even the most successful, largest social media companies, such as Facebook, do not yet have a good grasp on how to monitor their own websites. As per Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, social media platforms are not responsible for what their users post, and while this legislation sometimes serves to bolster free speech, it also serves to pass off responsibility for online posts to, essentially, the void.

That being said, much of the news that originates on social media is subject to manipulation and hoaxes, such as deep fakes and photoshop. Due to inefficient verification methods, hoaxes and false information spread like wildfire online, infecting the population with false information before it can be caught and corrected. And even when fake news is ousted as such, those who have viewed the information may have already made their minds up that it is real or may not have access to verification resources.

Therefore, real news outlets, with real verification methods, are still necessary to maintaining a free and open democratic society. Newspapers have a responsibility to ensure that the public has the ability to make informed decisions based on legitimate, fact-checked information.

News will continue to change, and perhaps in the future, every single paper will operate completely online. However, fully online papers are still capable of functioning with as much journalistic integrity and objectivity as are print papers. 

We cannot accept the notion that the news is dead, untrustworthy and no longer necessary. Don’t get me wrong — America has its fair share of problems in terms of bias in news and the conflation of pundits with objective news anchors. 

But, let’s not accept that news is over, nor overpowered by the millions of posts made on social media each and every day. Accepting failure begets more failure. There is time for reform, and there is time to embrace journalism for its intended purpose — a Fourth Estate, existing to inform society and place checks and balances on the government.

For many journalists, this begins in student newsrooms like ours. We are training the next generation of journalists, even if that generation represents a smaller part of the population each year. Student media outlets must maintain high standards for themselves in order to, one, be recognized as the important outlets they are and, two, to train future journalists by giving them real life experience out in the field.

In this issue, us student journalists at The Daily Beacon take a look at the current state of the news industry, with the past in mind, and ask: what’s next?

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