3 Barriers That Stand Between Journalists And Readers

Journalists spend their lives talking to people, comparing stories, and tracking leads so they can give readers an in-depth look at important topics. Journalism has never been an easy job. After all, leaders of companies and governments don’t want negative stories about them to reach the public.

The specific challenges that reporters face have changed a lot over the last couple of decades. Currently, these three barriers stand out as some of the most difficult challenges for journalists who want to keep their readers informed.

Limits on Protecting Anonymous Sources

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes it possible for journalists to protect their confidential sources. Anonymous sources are more likely to provide information because they don’t need to worry about retribution from courts, criminals, or the public.

Unfortunately, Article 19 doesn’t always support the rights of journalists. Courts may order journalists to identify anonymous sources, especially when they want to get more information from the sources. Journalists who refuse can face contempt of court charges that may lead to time in jail and hefty fines.

Paywalls Prevent Readers From Seeing Some Articles

As the newspaper industry struggles to find a way to earn money while giving audiences well-researched articles, many companies have created paywalls. A paywall forces potential readers to subscribe to a newspaper before accessing its content.

Some news organizations, including the New York Times and The Washington Post, have metered paywalls that let readers access a small number of free articles per month. Once a reader exceeds that number of articles, the person needs to pay a fee to read more.

News organizations need to earn money, so it makes sense for them to use paywalls. On the other hand, paywalls create barriers between journalists and voracious readers who want to remain informed. From the perspective of many reporters, paywalls make it harder for them to do their jobs.

Overdue Public Records Make Information Hard to Find

Journalists rely on public records to find information for their stories. Public records may offer much more than dates when people were arrested. Notes taken during a government meeting may also count as public records. When government documents qualify as public documents, reporters can use them to learn more about the government’s plans and actions.

Ideally, reporters should have easy access to public records. In the real world, government institutions don’t always make access easy. Some institutions go a step further by arguing that they should not have to give records to journalists. These instances can take months to resolve in court. In the meanwhile, journalists cannot get the updated information that they need to keep the public informed.

The free press plays a crucial element in keeping a society open and transparent. At its best, journalism can unearth misdeeds that damage individuals and the nation. Today’s journalists have several tools that make it possible for them to reach readers. For instance, Twitter has become an essential resource for professional journalists. Still, writers face some barriers that make it difficult for them to share the truth with their readers.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.