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Senior Column: Journalism: a dead language

“Why do you care so much about Latin? It’s a dead language.”

In 8th grade I took it upon myself to help spread the love of the Junior Classical League by creating a publication that promoted the classics at Greenhill. For years, I have heard Latin was dead. I should quit it. I should stop spending countless hours learning the language, and I should quit writing a publication about a dead language.

Luckily, it was from that publication that I found my affinity for a new passion: journalism.

I was ecstatic that I found a passion that intrigued people. I no longer got strange looks when I told people my interests. At least, up until now. When I tell people, I’m applying to colleges as a journalism major, I get the following:

“Don’t major in journalism-it’s dying.”

“A journalist’s profession is unstable, don’t count on it. Consider something worthwhile.”

Which is funny, because this sounded strikingly similar to “Don’t spend so much time on Latin-it’s dead.”

Multiple sources have informed me that pursuing journalism is as “useless” as Latin. But this time, instead of fighting them, I believe it. The art of journalism is dying, and, in fact, president Donald Trump even says good journalism is fake. Soon enough, we’ll be reminiscing when people read real news. According to a survey from Pew Research Center in 2017, 65% of all adults aged 18-49 get their news from social media, with Facebook and Twitter being the most used platforms for news. This is incredibly dangerous for society.

But why do you care? Because your behavior is affecting what you know.

On social media, people can choose which news outlets they want to follow and which stories they want to read. Social media users can filter what they don’t think is relevant. Facebook and Twitter algorithms try to personalize the news feed to everyone’s individual liking, but this is problematic if that’s how you rely on news. If you click on recipes, that is what shows up more, but a news story about an economic crisis in Rwanda may not show up for you at all.

Thus, the world of journalism has to evolve to fit our incredibly short attention spans. We scroll through Twitter and skim headlines, but how much information can a news organization fit into 140 characters of a tweet? No matter how hard news organizations try, 140 characters will never be a sufficient amount of space to demonstrate all viewpoints and facts of an issue. News organizations are there to provide you stories that would not have surfaced otherwise, but you have to make the extra effort to read the full story. The reality is that fewer people are making the effort to click that link and read the full story. Therefore, it’s not the news’ fault that the population is less informed, it’s ours.

We can’t revive Latin, but we can save journalism. Journalism is dying because we refuse to engage. Do the world a favor and make an effort to read the news. Routinely inform yourself about different issues by reading news stories about them. Check Al Jazeera’s news app once a day and read one article about a country you have never heard about. If you read that article, that issue will be heard through someone. And yes, you are saving journalism.

Originally published in the November 2017 print issue

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