Opinion

How To Generate Real News In Divided Societies

Michael Posner

By Michael Posner

As governments attack journalists, leaving them unable to do their job, online news takes their place, bringing all the attendant risks with it.

By Michael Posner

This past weekend several dozen journalists and activists from around the world convened in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Under the auspices of an organization called the Social Change Initiative, on whose board I sit, they came together to discuss the crisis facing news gathering and dissemination in deeply divided societies.  All of our societies seem deeply divided these days, and the declining role of newspapers as messengers of truth is an important factor. As in the U.S., newspapers in the UK and Ireland are struggling financially, upended by the disruption of an advertising model that is no longer sustainable. And as the news media decline around the world, online platforms take their place with few, if any, of the important journalistic checks to ensure truth.

At the Belfast conference, we heard journalists from Northern Ireland, South Africa, Colombia, Somalia, Nepal, the Balkans, Myanmar, Rwanda, Turkey, Syria, and India. This event, and others like it, are reminders of the global impact of upheaval in news media. We have an even greater crisis in countries where journalists and their families face attack for simply seeking to describe the events of the day.

While our situation in the U.S. is less dire, Western nations must face the ways economic challenges impede the pursuit of truth. In 2019, half of all advertising dollars globally will have been spent online--more than $330 billion worldwide. This means that online ad revenue will soon exceed that of newspapers, magazines, television, and radio combined. This year, Google’s advertising revenue will top $100 billion, while Facebook will hover around $67 billion. Though Amazon and the Chinese tech giant Alibaba, come next on the list, they are far behind the two digital ad giants. As advertising moves online, traditional journalism loses its crucial funding source, and those seeking news turn increasingly to social media platforms.

Read the full Forbes article.
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Michael Posner is a Professor of Business and Society and Director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.