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Is traditional media dying?

Is traditional media dying?

In the age of Tik Tok and other numerous social media platforms, how strong and vibrant is the traditional media? There are reports from Nepal and other countries showing shifts in information consumption patterns, with people migrating to digital platforms. Researches have also shown that people don't read news in full and make their opinion based on headlines. In Nepal, we continue to hear issues of journalists not being paid for months, media houses slashing their staff, or stopping to produce print editions. More recently, there was news that said journalists, like other professionals, were migrating to other countries. Is the traditional media dying?

There was a time when becoming a reporter was my dream. Even though I was studying computer science, I found my passion lay not in coding but in writing. Eventually, I interned at a television and learnt the basics of reporting. I never knew that watching your own stories and listening to your voice could be so encouraging. With time, writing became a habit and sharing stories of people a culture. Fortunately, I was selected to study journalism in India and also got national and international experience in media. Social media had not penetrated general lives then so people were still following traditional media. People’s comments in person about my stories uplifted me.

In 2008, Nepal had many stories to cover—the Maoists had ended their armed rebellion, centuries’ old monarchy had exited, and a dream of new Nepal was envisioned by everyone. Nepali journalists were writing for international media. I was also one of them. I was among a few women journalists covering political news in Kathmandu. Although I was proud, I also realized that I needed to know the theories of political science and international relations to be a better journalist. So, I enrolled at the Tribhuvan University in the hope of being guided by the great professors on the subject. However, student politics had infiltrated so much that they would shut our classes down. Tired of the frequent class closures, I dropped out and later studied international affairs in the United States. I focused more on development and conflict than reporting. When I returned, I chose to give rest to my journalistic career. Nevertheless, I’ve continuously followed Nepali media and I must say it doesn’t have the same charm as it had even until ten years ago.  

As it was bound to happen, digital media have sprung up all over. Fewer people are buying newspapers to read news; even radio and television contents are now being migrated to the internet. The media business that thrived for so long on an ad-centric model is now facing challenges. Setopati has experimented by monetizing their content. It remains to be seen how successful that approach would be in Nepal.

On the other hand, those with language proficiency find jobs as public relations officers where they are better paid with wellbeing packages, medical insurance for the family, national and international exposure, and even have chances of landing international jobs. What about a career in journalism then?

A friend recently told me that she cannot convince her journalism students that they will have a great career in the media industry in Nepal. I think she is right. Many journalists that I know have either switched careers or have left the country for PhD programs. However, there are those who cannot quit the profession and tolerate the delayed salaries.

If there is a declining consumption of the traditional news contents and difficulties to manage resources, why should media continue with the same model of media business? If the media sector cannot be vibrant, neutral, and uplifting, it could even be a challenge to democracy. We have seen enough politically-biased online content. In order to bring traffic, clickbaits are used that can erode the trust of news consumers. Additionally, misinformation and disinformation, declining trust in journalism, information overload, and financial sustainability among others are serious challenges to journalism. It’s high time government and media stakeholders started efforts to prevent the slow death of journalism.