All Journalism is being harmed by online alternatives

Lewiston Bengals Logo, Courtesy of The Bengals Purr archives.
Lewiston Bengals Logo, Courtesy of The Bengal’s Purr archives.

Journalism is facing a crisis.
In place of traditional news institutions, a new medium for journalism has arisen, one almost entirely unaccountable to the tenets that once bound the industry: the Internet.
On the face of it, this is not inherently bad. Industries constantly change, and journalism is no different. There was a time when television and radio played no role in journalism whatsoever, on account of not yet existing. But their introduction to the field did not threaten to dismantle the entire industry.
What makes the Internet different is the very thing that makes it profitable — engagement. Never before have companies so quickly and reliably been able to observe the trends in their content, and to analyze which pieces produce the most profit, down to the cent.
The incentive to make the switch to online content to optimize engagement was already high, but once enough corporations had made that switch, advertisers followed them. According to, in 2023, television ad spending decreased by 5.4%, double the rate of the decline in viewership.
And television is not the only medium suffering from the Internet’s rise to prominence. If anything, print media has been hit even harder. According to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, since 2005, the U.S. has lost about 2,900 newspapers, and the rate of loss is only increasing. In 2023 alone, there was the closure or merger of more than 130 publications, totaling an average of 2.5 per week.
As of 2022, 36% of U.S. adults used social media to consume news daily, according to This coincides with a decrease in engagement with traditional news sources, which are still struggling to adapt to the online climate.
Losing advertisers, subscribers and their overall audience, most news corporations are forced to enter the confines, or rather the complete lack thereof, of the Internet. Here, with the numbers laid bare, receiving funding from advertisers is entirely dependent upon engagement.
From there, a vicious cycle begins. In order to attract advertisers, media companies must maximize engagement, and that means tailoring their content to the consumer. While this is no different from any other business, within journalism, this presents a pressing issue — one that is seemingly fundamental to human nature. We are attracted to negativity. According to Social Media Today, stories with negative headlines drive more engagement, while those with positive headlines actively decrease it.
Another problem with Internet news is the ease with which one can become trapped in a filter bubble, only consuming media that is tailored to their own beliefs. Ironically, when there were fewer options for news, there was less bias overall. A local newspaper has typically been beholden to the entire community, rather than to an insular part of it. Now, many publications are becoming more radical, and are utilizing more sensational headlines and openers (like the first line of this article).
Such a wide array of news outlets does not have to work against the truth. But the current state of the Internet not only allows, but basically encourages, the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation. On most platforms, there are very few systems in place to identify and denote incorrect information.
Between the creation of engagement-driven, negative, online filter bubbles and the decline of traditional media, people are increasingly left in news deserts, and news corporations are dismantled from the ground up. In 2023, the news industry lost 21,417 positions, a 417% increase from the previous year, according to The only other years in recent memory that suffered similar cuts were 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2009, at the height of the Great Recession.
To be clear, journalism is not dead, despite what a glance at “news” accounts on TikTok might have one believe. There still exist several news outlets that are either independent, nonprofit or publicly-funded. These outlets continue to uphold the responsibilities of the fourth estate, and include Propublica, Reveal, and the Marshall Project, to name a few. Publications such as these that still employ actual editorial teams instead of relying on Google Trends (or, likely in the near future, AI) are pillars of our democracy. And just like a democratic government, those publications require the support and engagement of the people.

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