As I was reading through the "five secrets of crisis communication" I was struck by how hard it is to be a good journalist, especially in today's global information age. I have always respected good journalism, but I never really thought about the challenges of journalism until now.
With technological and cultural change happening so quickly it is difficult for any individual to get a handle on the complexity of global issues. Nevertheless, this is exactly what a reporter has to to when covering a complex and quickly changing story like a flu pandemic. They have to quickly digest a tremendous amount of information and make sense of it so that they can communicate it to the general public. This is not easy even when covering a small story such as a local political campaign. It is exponentially more difficult when the story is a global pandemic.
According to Dori Reissman (Commander, United States Public Health Service
) another challenge facing journalists is establishing public trust. Reissman states that "when we reach out to the different audiences, we find public trust is a
big issue. If you don't have the trust, people aren't going to follow what you say to do." Over time it seems that public trust in both government and the media has eroded. This cynicism toward government officials and journalists has its roots in some real problems in both government and journalism. Possibly the most daunting of the problems that have diminished public trust is the issue of corruption. Perhaps due to the diligence of reporters and the lightning fast distribution of modern day news the public is more aware than ever of the failings of both government and the media. Though I would never argue that the public should remain in the dark about corruption, this knowledge has led to a potentially dangerous lack of public trust.
This lack of trust has been converging with changing technology to create a new way for people to get their news. Newspapers have seen record declines in readership as people turn to bloggers, Facebook, Twitter, and other online sources for their news. However, all of these web 2.0 news sources still rely on traditional reporting for their stories. It remains to be seen how far the traditional news media organizations will fall and how reliable the "new media" sources will be, but overall I think the trend toward more news sources is a positive one. Web applications like Ushahidi (http://www.ushahidi.com/)
that allow the general public to share information quickly and easily may further threaten the existence of traditional media, but it is still too early to tell for sure. It may be that with abundant information available to anyone who wants it journalists will no longer be needed, or perhaps society will need journalists more than ever to sift through the mass of information in search of the most important bits. Whatever the outcome, today's journalists definitely live and work in interesting times.