Media Ethics in the Digital Age

Rapid structural changes in the field of journalism have had profound ethical implications and reverberations in the 21st century. With the ascent of digital media, news has taken a postmodern turn. The ever-changing and ever-adaptable nature of the Internet has induced a radical transformation from rigidity to fluidity. News stories can be continually altered to reflect changing points of view and updated to reflect the most recent facts. Traditional notions of ethics, accuracy, and truth have been totally distorted.

In Hong Kong, news sites like Stand News, Hong Kong Free Press, and former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau’s newly launched site CitizenNews, attract consumers who want a change from traditional print media. Due to the nature of online media, independent news sites in Hong Kong have the freedom to publish articles and propagate opinions that might not be shared by mainstream, establishment papers like the English-language South China Morning Post and the Chinese-language Ming Pao.

In a medium wherein emphasis is placed on speed and interactivity, audiences are naturally drawn to attention-grabbing news that has stretched traditional constructs of journalistic “truth”. Audiences are now predisposed to favor sensationalist and “easy” stories that favor simplicity (and hence, popularity) over accuracy. Moreover, with the ability to comment, replicate, and/or pass along viral information, audiences have now, more so than ever before, become an integral part of the information-sharing process that was once restricted to journalists. In other words, journalists are no longer alone in determining what is “true” and “meaningful” news. The construction of meaning has become a process that encompasses and incorporates a panoply of voices and perspectives.

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