“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands.” Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde focuses on the first critique and charge to journalism. In the Information age, with democratic social networks, like Wikipedia, and the army of bloggers, do we still need someone paid to write news? Do we still want old journalists to have the privilege to do what is everyone's duty? Doesn't it respond more to the ideal of reporting if everyone finds Truth only because he/she is devoted to this mission?
The legend of reporters fades if we examine the press industry off stage. Nowadays, the press crisis affects even the most famous newspapers, and the mechanism is more noticeable. Books, like “The Vanishing Newspaper” by Philip Meyer, are foreseeing the death of newspapers in less than 50 years. All media are always more worried to survive, and they have to rely on marketing, advertising, and often to take care about ownership. The “Clearance sale” of Truth worries because of the risk to lose freedom of press, probably filtered by all the economic and political forces that works behind a newspaper.
Isn't this urge of selling the truth a contradiction? They have to cut costs, so they are reducing human resources that actually work on journalism, such as editorial staff. Furthermore, in order to sell more copies, they have created a new form of news called Infotainment, where entertainment is mixed with information. Sensationalism is undermining the criteria used to decide the agenda-setting.
What about the link between democracy and informed citizenship? Fourth Estate has been weakened in its being an elite group by the birth of the web, especially web 2.0, but this new “democratic scoop” must be ruled not to fall into anarchy. Moreover, the phenomenon of Free press made the situation worse. However, Free press is free, but not free from commercial influences.
The role of the newspaper editor, legally responsible for what it is written in his heading, guarantees a protection from lies. Once we saved from advertising our multiple sources of Information, we can trust a reporter paid to write in-depth examination, to check by-lines, to investigate in order to give something to discuss to public opinion. Someone who isolates facts from opinions in an explicit way, so as to help readers to get the most objective point of view. The web democracy is the future of journalism, but we have to save reliable professional experts.
Since 1992, according to the statistics of Cpj, the Committee to Protect Journalists, 722 journalists have been killed on duty worldwide.1 We still need good journalists, as we need good doctors, as long as they respect their code of conduct and they agree to rethink their job as a combined mission with active citizenship, probably in a web scenery.