Changing Media Landscapes: Challenges To Being A Journalist

Daniel Höly



Vom 4. bis 6. November nahm ich am Deutsch-Vietnamesischen Mediendialog 2014 in Hanoi teil. Dabei durfte ich einen Vortrag über die Herausforderungen eines jungen Journalisten in Deutschland halten, der in eine einstündige Diskussion mündete. Bewusst provokant hatte ich daher die Thesen formuliert, um einen fruchtbaren Dialog unter den sechs deutschen und 13 vietnamesischen Journalisten anzustoßen.

Auf der einen Seite zeigt mein englischsprachiger Vortrag, wie man die Medienlandschaft derzeit sehen kann – voller lösbarer Herausforderungen. Andererseits möchte ich diese bewusst düstere Präsentation auch im Netz veröffentlichen und erneut zu einer Diskussion einladen.

Are we trapped in the vicious circle?

Or: How to destroy the trust in journalism in 8 steps.
Step 8 will make you worry.


[spoiler title=”1. No working business model” style=”fancy”]

  1. A conflict between print and online
    – The business model for print media doesn’t work anymore
    – The business model for online media doesn’t work yet
    –> Native Ads present a problem for trust and credibility. Journalism = commodity of trust / credence goods. At the moment we are gambling it away.
  2. A conflict between corporate publishing and journalism
    – Full dependency on companies – non-publishing houses – is very dangerous. In this dependency, investigative reporting such as the Watergate scandal would hardly be possible or even wanted.
    – The main interest of companies is to earn money and therefore they are only interested in numbers as well as how to reduce production costs (by firing journalists).
    – But publishers should think different about journalism and see the biggest value in their editors who produce the trustworthy and valuable content.
    – Unfortunately we already see the development that companies take over: AOL bought HuffPo and TechCrunch, Red Bull is big in Europe, Yahoo! invested millions of Dollars, and Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post … slowly but surely, Corporate Publishing takes over.
  3. A choice between the devil and the deep blue sea
    – Digital dependency on Google (Search), Facebook (Social) or Apple (Digital Publishing).–> It’s all about trust (fading away) and money (fading away).


[spoiler title=”2. Leads to less security, money, jobs and motivation” style=”fancy”]

  1. More journalists work as (poorly paid) freelancer rather than as (well paid) editor.
  2. More journalists are discouraged, because they realize that many people don’t value their work.
  3. Many journalists got fired – and will get fired in the next few years.–> It’s all about saving money (publishers) and earning money (journalists).


[spoiler title=”3. Leads to better enemies” style=”fancy”]

What do you do if you lose your job as an editor? You can try working as a freelancer where you will get low wages. Or you can be hired as a well-paid public relations manager – an option many journalists chose (some because they have to).
But: PR should be the natural opponent of journalism. While companies only tell one side (the good side) of the story, one of our tasks as journalists is to discover and tell all sides there are. Sometimes this means to display two sides, sometimes there are five perspectives and sometimes it is only one. But there are more and more people working in PR nowadays. And since companies pay much better than publishing houses, they often hire good journalists.

–> It’s all about earning money.


[spoiler title=”4. Leads to more stress” style=”fancy”]

Fewer journalists have to know more things and do more work – in less time. Social Media, Multimedia, Crossmedia, VJ, Coding, Data journalism…

  • „eierlegende Wollmilchsau“ („egg-laying wool-milk-sow“; „An all-in-one person who has only positive attributes and who can do the work of several specialized tools.“)

–> It’s all about self-marketing. Welcome to “Meconomy”.


[spoiler title=”5. Leads to decreasing media ethics” style=”fancy”]

I don’t have any numbers for that, but in my opinion media ethics became less important. We just feed the people with the content they want. We don’t care about whether it’s healthy or not. So we only give them junk food.

Example: In my studies at university, we would only talk about media ethics once in four years.

–> We can’t afford ethics anymore. It’s too expensive.


[spoiler title=”6. Leads to entertainment driven journalism…” style=”fancy”]

Gossip, sensationalism and lifestyle generate many clicks. Beautiful woman on the cover help to sell more newspapers. Entertaining and emotional stories get more likes and shares on social media. Football is the new “bread and circuses” for the 21th century. Young people are less interested in politics and more interested in Netflix. Journalism suddenly has to compete against the entertainment industry and show business.

–> It’s all about getting the attention of young readers – in order to display ads or to collect and sell our data. Attention is the new currency on the web.


[spoiler title=”7. …and to opinion journalism” style=”fancy”]

The truth doesn’t matter anymore. It matters what people and journalists think. Some journalists argue that facts are the new truth (since there might be no absolute truth). But even facts can lie. The trend leads to opinion becoming more important than truth (it is easier, cheaper, faster and less dangerous to get!): Opinion > Truth. The next step might be that the opinion of the majority becomes the truth: Opinion = Truth.

Instead we should focus on objective journalism – even though we can never reach a hundred percent objectivity in journalism, we should always strive for the truth.

–> It’s all about saving time and money. Opinion is cheaper (than truth).


[spoiler title=”8. Leads to less quality” style=”fancy”]

(What “quality” means, depends on how you define “quality”)

In Germany we say it’s impossible to define “quality” in journalism. But more and more people sense that the quality of journalism decreases. Nowadays we have to be faster, faster, faster – at the cost of quality. This is also true for the costs: Everything has to be cheaper, cheaper, cheaper – at the cost of quality. But with less quality people lose trust in journalism. And trust is the true currency of how the media business model works. Without trust in an independent and reliable journalism there is no reason left to spend money for our products. This means that finding a sustainable business model will become even more difficult.

–> To sum it up: Without trust there is no more working business model.


[spoiler title=”Vicious Media Circle” style=”fancy”]

Vicious Media Circle