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History of Journalism: Its relationship with Fake News (Essay Sample)


journalism and the impact of fake news in their historical context


History of Journalism: Its relationship with Fake News
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History of Journalism: Its relationship with Fake News
Journalism is an important pillar of all modern societies; it involves gathering information, analyzing it for authenticity, and presenting it impartially. Professional journalism empowers citizens to make better decisions about their lives and society by providing unbiased and authentic information (American Press Institute, 2017). The history of journalism is as old as human civilizations; however, in the past two centuries, journalism has experienced substantial growth; especially the advent of the Internet has brought unprecedented changes in the medium and methodology of journalism as news and information is accessible to even the remotest part of the societies. The distortion of information, contrivance, and dissemination of fake news is one negative aspect of journalism. If it is not bridled, it causes social anarchy, confusion, and extremist behaviour in society. The phenomenon of fake news has grown exponentially in the current digital age; hence, this essay aims to examine the historical perspective of journalism with special references to the root causes and implications of fake news.
The history of journalism goes back to the origin of human societies as not even primitive societies could survive without getting important information, including information about some impending natural disaster. The ancient historical records suggest that people of antiquity used archaic means of signaling about the impending natural disaster or war, and often they also disseminate information in the form of stories (Carey, 2007). Archaeologists and historians have also discovered that in all primitive human civilizations, the definition and means of spreading the news remained virtually the same (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2021). Even in ancient literature, one can trace the human craving for news. For instance, one of the recurrent themes of "Odyssey" is a hunger for news used to disseminate information and persuade people and kings (A History of Journalism, n.d.). These facts historical facts verify the significance of news and journalism in ancient human societies.
The earliest physical evidence of news came from ancient Rome in 59 B.C., where news was disseminated in the form of a news sheet called "Acta Dirua," which meant "a gazette of the political and social event." They were written in Latin engraved on stone or metallic plates; government officials posted these gazettes on places of public activities (A History of Journalism, n.d.). Similarly, in China, a very primitive form of news circular called “bao or ti-pao” was circulated amongst the government functionaries in the reign of the T'ang dynasty that spanned from 618 to 907 A.D. (Endres, 2001). This means of new dissipation continued in various forms and names as far as 1911, when the Qing dynasty ended (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). These historical facts prove that the earliest endeavours in journalism were made in two technologically advanced civilizations: Ancient Rome and China (Endres, 2001). Furthermore, these facts also reveal that the reason behind the inception of journalism in these two empires was the availability of wealth and leisure time for gossiping and information exchange.
However, the real impetus for the development of newspaper and newspaper journalism came when in 1282, the construction and working of a paper mill made in Spain made paper easily available for different communication purposes (A History of Journalism, n.d.). Nevertheless, journalism could not progress in Europe on account of many social, political and religious reasons. One of them was the dissolution of the Roman Empire in around the fourth and fifth centuries; consequently, this historical and political event halted the progress of all fields of life, including journalism in Europe, till the fourteenth century (Endres 2001). The invention and working of the first printing press in Germany by Johannes Gutenberg in around 1400 AD also brought about revolution in the field of journalism as this invention facilitated quick and cheap printing of novels, poetry, and other literary works, and eventually, it was used for printing newspapers and magazines (A History of Journalism, n.d.).
In the same connection, in 1594, a newspaper run by a citizen was invented in Cologne (now Germany); the newspaper's name was "Mercurius Gallobelgicus.” Consequently, the first regular newspaper named “Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien”was published by Johann Carolus in Strassbourg in 1605. As an offshoot of this development, in Holland in around 1620, the first English newspaper titled "The Courante" was published mainly to check the Government's control over the freedom of expression. Afterward, journalism's progress gained further momentum as "The Oxford Gazette," the oldest and still extant English newspaper, was published in 1665 in London (A History of Journalism, n.d.). This historical timeline of publication of print media indicates the uneven but gradual and forward progress that journalism made in its budding days. Subsequent publications of different other renowned newspapers were made possible only due to the pioneering efforts.
Although the dissemination of information is not a unique characteristic of human societies, it is a reality that journalism in its purest sense was developed during the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries (Carey, 2007). On account of the Industrial Revolution, different new forms of journalism, including diaries, magazines, tabloids, and weekly and daily newspapers, began to be printed and circulated regularly. However, the most significant technological advancement that altered the landscape of journalism was the invention of photography in 1839 by Louis Daguerre (Endres, 2001). Subsequently, the use of photography introduced new dimensions of journalism and endowed it with depth and expression. The first use of photography in journalism was made by Roger Fenton, who used this innovative technique to capture the scenes of the Crimean War (Endres, 2001). Afterward, the inventions of video cameras established the modern and traditional form of journalism comprising television, newspapers, and other such means.
Most importantly, the modern era of digital technology and the Internet has given an entirely new meaning to the profession of journalism. In this era, people enjoy new ways of getting informed about current and past affairs; for instance use of social media and the Internet has considerably limited the role of newspapers, magazines, and other physical means of information dissipation. For the same reason, online versions of newspapers, journals, and magazines are gaining popularity. Consequently, journalism has experienced many new challenges and thereby adapted new strategies to cope with these new emerging challenges. Now journalists have to work mostly in a virtual environment and stay alert and attached to the Internet for information and news (Kaul, 2013). Furthermore, the exponential growth of social media has brought about new challenges to traditional and professional journalists as everyone is trying his hand in journalism. Conclusively, these amateur practices have become a constant threat to honest journalism. For the same reason, these days, the role of professional ethics and code of conduct has become more prominent in professional journalism than ever.
Connected to the digitization of journalism in the modern era are the grave issue of generation and the spread of fake news. Although the menace of fake news has existed since the inception of journalism, the current digitization of journalism has spurred the spread of fake news. Such unethical practice is harming professional journalism by eroding its credibility in the public eyes. Therefore, the study of background causes of dissipation of fake news and its remedial measure is imperative in this digital age when the spread of devastating news at the global level is a matter of minutes (Osho, 2020). Fake news is detrimental to journalism and journalists and the moral, ethical, and cultural fabric of society. The deliberate spread of fake or unauthenticated news may create anarchy, mass confusion, social hysteria, and disruption in basic social setups.
One of the main cause of abundance of fake news is the "information glut" that is one of the ramifications of the unscrupulous growth of digital technologies. This excessive accumulation of unauthentic information on all forms of journalism creates mass confusion; mostly, this information is disseminated without verification, which constitutes fake news (Campbell et al., 2014). The traditional and professional criteria for evaluating a piece of news include uniqueness, utility, timeliness, conflict, potential impact (Campbell et al., 2014). One of the key factors determining the news's credibility is the reporter's neutrality; however, this moral principle is pretty much at stake in the current digital world. The reason behind diminishing neutrality from the news is shrinking the wide-range audience into small groups that want to hear and read particular opinions and views (Campbell et al., 2014). Consequently, to gratify the needs of these specific groups, journalists and other newspapers stoop to disregard all morals and ethics of journalism and spread fake news.
For instance, the rapid demand for a particular content discourages any fact-checking and investigation necessary for news authentication. In the same way, such trends also compel journalists to bid fa...

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