As part of a new series on how technology is changing journalism, we’re asking journalists young and old how they think the industry is evolving.
Journalist Yvonne Ridley worked in her native North East in the 1970s before heading to Fleet Street and on to broadcast journalism working in conflict and humanitarian disaster zones. Now she provides Middle East analysis, gives media lectures and is currently working on a TV drama with a team of scriptwriters.
1. What is the biggest difference between journalism in 2021 and 20 years ago?
Technology and the arrival of citizen journalism have revolutionised the process of news gathering and the way in which we receive our news.
Signs of the print industry declining were already in evidence but alternative forms of communicating have brought about its rapid decline in the last two decades.
2. How has technology changed journalism (for better or worse)?
The existence of smart phones, broadband and video cameras means a story can be told from virtually anywhere in the world and delivered within minutes of an event happening.
This can be very powerful when covering war crimes, conflicts, atrocities and bad behaviour by those in authority. As we saw with the astonishing Black Lives Matter campaign, and shocking footage of those killed while in police custody or similar law-enforcement encounters, such images can generate huge public responses.
This is the power of the media when used responsibly. Sadly, these sort of powerful images can also be manipulated, distorted and taken out of context to cause civil unrest and more violence. The concept of fake news has become a powerful weapon which is being exploited to the full by unscrupulous politicians, rogue states and others who benefit from false information.
3. Is journalism really getting worse or is that just something people like to say?
While the arrival of the citizen journalist is to be welcomed, it is still vital that media organisations maintain a gold standard of training those who want to enter the industry.
Anyone can pick up a pen and notebook and call themselves a journalist, but that is as dangerous in many ways as someone picking up a stethoscope, donning a white coat and declaring themselves to be a doctor!
Journalism in the hands of someone who is untrained or unsupervised can have serious consequences and does a disservice to those who’ve gone through apprenticeships and formal training.
Dr Yvonne Ridley
Member of National Union of Journalists (NUJ) since 1977, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), one of the founders of Women in Journalism (WIJ). In 2020 was awarded an honorary doctorate in journalism for her work in humanitarian fields and conflict zones.