How Technology is Redefining the Scope of Modern Journalism

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A main component of journalism is to gather accurate and sound information from varying sources to bring balance and objectivity to each story. In the past, journalists representing well-established news houses were the gatekeepers or watchdogs of society, wielding the full power to determine what information is disseminated to the public. However, over the past few decades, the ever-evolving technological landscape has reshaped journalism as we know it.

The introduction of the first modern smartphone was a stark turning point in the world of news. The release of Apple’s first iPhone in 2007 marked a new era, followed by a wave of global developments in smart mobile technology. Chinese-owned Huawei shortly followed with the release of the U8220, placing the power of information sharing in the hands of everyday civilians. The transfer of power from a handful or two of media elites to the common man has entirely reshaped the scope of what we know as modern journalism.

The introduction of commercial 3G and 4G networks further proliferated this, enabling faster data transmission speeds and improved multimedia capabilities on mobile devices.

The implications of these technological advances have been both positive and negative, each bearing its own set of challenges. In the world of journalism, these challenges continue to evolve as technology advances. To name a few, problems like data theft, misinformation, oversaturation of information, and information tampering with the use of advanced editing programs to skew the nature of events are just a few.

Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World’s “Phone Hacking Scandal” that emerged in 2011 is an excellent example of how technology enabled unethical practices. The scandal revealed that journalists had engaged in illegal phone hacking activities to gather information for stories. It was discovered that they had hacked into the voicemail accounts of various individuals, including celebrities, politicians, crime victims, and even murdered teenager Milly Dowler. This led to the final closure of the news house, ending its 168-year-long history.

However, technology has also been advantageous in making the information gathering, distribution, and creation process more efficient, accurate, and ethical. In the field of investigative journalism, the development of the Eyewitness to Atrocities app by RELX is a notable achievement. The app, developed in partnership with LexisNexis Legal & Professional, is the first of its kind to collect, verify, catalog, and protect images so that they can be used as evidence in a court of law while helping protect the individuals who have taken the photos or videos. This is a significant achievement and an example of how technology is positively reshaping modern journalism, bridging the gap between the occurrence of an event and its investigation, and benefiting all parties involved. The app not only helps journalists report events more accurately but also aids in bringing criminals to justice.

The tool has become increasingly relevant as atrocities unfolded during the war in Ukraine in 2022. Since the Ukrainian version was released on March 8, 2022, every Ukrainian citizen who has downloaded the app now has the potential to be a valuable witness in future domestic and international war tribunals.

The app empowers citizen journalists and acts as a catalyst in solving a host of legal and journalistic problems. All of this was initiated through a singular question posed by Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association and expert on Criminal law, in response to an investigation into the killings of civilians by Sri Lankan government forces, where information was tampered with: “I thought, ‘What if we could create an app that would allow us to embed in it all the information needed for the video or pictures to speak for themselves?’”

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