Public Interest Journalism is not universally defined and what it may mean to a journalist is likely to differ to a member of the public. However, a blanket approach to defining it would be information that a journalist would investigate that the public has a right to know. It is already obvious how this definition can be a bit blurry. What does the public actually have a right to know?
Certainly stories regarding corruption are within the interests of the public and seen as a journalists duty to publish. But is a sex scandal? Sure, a sex scandal will sell or generate more clicks which does play an important role in keeping our media alive and funded, but at what cost?
This area of ‘click bait’ and trivial stories does effect public interest journalism. Many see the changing digital landscape as a factor in how this is happening as previous traditional media models are having to adapt to where advertisers and funding is heading; the internet.
But this does not necessarily mean there is no room for investigative journalism in the publics interest on the internet. The recent ABC Four Corners’ investigation on the Don Dale Detention Centre and Joanne McCarthy’s exposure of clerical sexual abuse were also investigations that were consumed and watched closely by audiences and readers, arguably moreso than the everyday celebrity gossip.
Therefore, while it is obvious that many major media organisations have struggled in many ways to stay relevant in the digital landscape, this cannot simply be put down to more consumer interest in trivial matters over large matters of real public interest. By being able to separate the two and ensuring that public interest stories are adapted to be consumed and presented digitally, the future of public interest journalism can be better understood and developed.
Image source: http://jsk.stanford.edu/journalism-challenges/2016/how-can-we-deliver-public-interest-journalism-that-cuts-through-the-noise/