Blog

Our perspective on 2024: The Unfolding Media Crisis

“2024 is in need of trustworthy and inclusive news as a cornerstone of democracy. It might sound strange from the mouths of PR-professionals: we at Fitzgerald will always be fighting for this”.

2024 marks the year that our future is on the ballot: more people globally will head to the polls this year than ever before – over half of the world’s population to be exact, be it at the national, regional or local level. 

 

The UN foundation named this year crucial in determining the future of ‘women’s rights and representation’ around the world. This monumental year comes at a time where mass layoffs, algorithms and changing media consumption patterns are restructuring the very fabric of the media landscape. While democracy can’t function without communication, this poses the question – what does the future of the media landscape look like?  

The last years were marked by a rise in independent journalism on social media, but sustaining their business online proves increasingly hard for independent media producers as their work is often overlooked or shadow banned by the big platform algorithms. As generative AI makes its way into the mainstream, public trust in information is on the downfall. Social cohesion is on a constant decline, and algorithmic bubbles are hardening. Yet, 2024 is in need of trustworthy and inclusive news as a cornerstone of democracy. It might sound strange from the mouths of PR-professionals: we at Fitzgerald will always be fighting for this. 

We formulated three key drivers that are forming the future of the news landscape: 

Citizen Journalism

Younger generations consume information vastly different from their predecessors. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram enable real-time, participatory news, disrupting traditional one-way distribution models. Citizen journalism gives voice to marginalized perspectives, providing more diversity of coverage. When bombs fall in Gaza or Kyiv, it is often young locals capturing raw glimpses of local realities. 

This democratization challenges any monopoly in narratives. But it also makes verification more difficult. Videos can be decontextualized or manipulated in order to oppose differing perspectives. Facts can overlap with fiction. Some condemn social news as fostering echo chambers immune to opposing views. But filter bubbles predate social media, as traditional outlets catered to specific ideologies. Next to that, the media industry, just as any other area of expertise that is based on impartiality, has not been free of economic influences. Nowadays, algorithmic feeds do expose some users to more diverse content. Either way, individuals must take responsibility for broadening their media diet.

Media literacy education can help citizens critically assess sources while appreciating varying perspectives. If consumed in addition to high quality traditional journalism, grassroots perspectives can enhance democratic participation.

Generative AI Becoming Mainstream

As synthetic AI-generated content spreads, including deep fakes of e.g. politicians and other public figures, we are at risk of facing disinformation overflow blurring truth. This overflow of available content can lead to perceived pressure by legitimate news platforms to sensationalize in order to win some of the attention.   

Platforms like Meta and TikTok, might strengthen content moderation and push certain accredited news to users’ feeds. But their algorithms still reward inflammatory posts. How will democracy withstand industrialized outrage manufacturing?

Building genuine ESG credibility

As societal divisions deepen, purpose-driven brands following through on ESG commitments can earn community trust – with PR teams helping devise and promote genuine initiatives that align core business practices with wider social impact. Storytelling rooted in meaningful action, not virtue signaling, will resonate. Data-driven ESG communications will also grow while confronting challenges like greenwashing.

As technologic and societal disruptions reshape the industry, our adaptability, our ethics and our determination to put in the work for a healthy societal discussion and therewith democracy, determine the way forward.

As Jon Steward recently stated in The Daily Show: It’s not about election day, it’s about the day after. And the day after that. And the day after that..