As I'm sure many University of Cincinnati (UC) students can relate to, I am on the hunt for an internship for the spring 2022 semester. This has me furiously editing cover letters, digging through my mess of a closet for a clean button-up shirt and meticulously sending email after email. However, the thing that trips me up the most, by far, is the dreaded interview question, "What do you want to do in the future?" I don't know – honestly, being a full-time professional journalist, no matter the beat or publication, would be more than enough. Sadly, that might even be too much to ask.
As much as I love journalism, there is no denying the state of the industry. U.S. newsroom employment has fallen 26% from 2008 to 2020, according to Pew Research Center. The pandemic wasn't kind to journalists either, as the industry saw 16,160 jobs cut in 2020 alone, a record high, according to a Challenger, Gray & Christmas study.
There are many reasons newsrooms are seeing such staggering losses – one being social media. According to Pew Research, 71% of Americans get at least some of their news from social media platforms. Journalists have long cautioned against using social media as a source, but a Facebook whistleblower proved this week just how dangerous social media can be.
Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook, provided thousands of internal documents to The Wall Street Journal, gave a bombshell "60 Minutes" interview and testified before a Senate subcommittee. She detailed how Facebook – who also owns Instagram and WhatsApp – consistently chose profits over safety.
"The result has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat," said Haugen in her testimony. "In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people."
Haugen's revelations hardly shocked me, but it finally seems to be waking up those on Capitol Hill that can do something about it. Tom Jones of the Poynter Institute noted how Haugen captivated lawmakers, leading him to question if this is "Facebook's Big Tobacco moment?"
It very well may be, but I think one thing that has escaped the coverage of Haugen is how this reiterates the importance of quality journalism that doesn't prioritize profits over facts. Sure, some publications have sold out for profit, but, by and large, the journalistic community holds itself to incredibly high standards that the public deserves and are necessary to hold the fabric of society together.
Adding to the tumultuous week Facebook had, the company also saw a widespread outage that lasted nearly six hours. During this seemingly never-ending stretch, traffic surged at news sites. According to Chartbeat, net traffic to pages across the web was up 38% at the peak of the outage.
I think a better question to ask is, "Would the fall of Facebook mean a resurgence for journalism?" For now, though, I'm just focused on my exhaustive search for an internship and how to answer that unanswerable question.