Originally published 18/08/2015
From a Western perspective globalisation is a great force for positive change; it renders pre-digital communication and organisation obsolete and allows economic, political and cultural (Editorial: Globalisation, Societies and Eduction, 2003. P. 4-5) communities to quickly and conveniently connect across the world. With regards journalism, globalisation has allowed media to publish across the world and reach a mass audience that would have otherwise been limited by newspaper circulation area. But the change to digital journalism has not been entirely positive for the industry and many now speculate “when” rather than “if” the demise of traditional news media will occur. This essay discusses some of the positive and negative effects of globalisation before looking at how it has effected written journalism.
There is no agreed single definition of globalisation (ibid, p. 4). Friedman (2000, p. 211) states “globalisation is so broad . . . that a comprehensive description now seems almost futile”. Giddens (1990, p. 64) regards it as “the global intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa”. Higgins (1999, p. 78) says “Globalisation [is] the reality that we live in a time when the walls of sovereignty are no protection against the movements of capital, labour, information and ideas”; globalisation is a result of sharing social, economic and technological information and “is driven by . . . purposeful political action and technological innovation” (Albert and Ursprung, 2002, p. 24). Modern globalisation can be seen in the ability to make a phone call from Moscow to Washington; to conduct business meetings in real-time with international stakeholders; and, as stated by Steger (2009, p. 25), “[in] the Cuban-Chinese restaurant around the corner or the Eurasian fusion café next door”. Globalisation generally results in reduced physical, cultural, social and economic barriers that have existed in the past between communities.
Mawdudar (2004, p. 1) states “Globalisation has been in existence since the inception of trade and business and the transfer of knowledge across territorial boundaries”. The East India Company was an early form of modern globalisation (Smith et al., 2000, p. 8), which united cultures through trade. The European colonial period is an example of large-scale, pre-digital globalisation, during which native populations were often forcibly assimilated into their coloniser’s culture. In a Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies article, Steger (2009, p. 19) states “[Modern] globalisation . . . constitutes a multi-dimensional set of process in which images, sound bites, metaphors, myths, symbols, and spatial arrangements of globality [are] just as important as economic and technological dynamics”. He comments it “is inevitable and irreversible . . . benefits everyone . . . [and] furthers the spread of democracy in the world” (ibid, p. 20). However, blurring sovereign borders can undermine traditional customs and laws. As stated by Higgins (1999, p. 78), globalisation has meant governments can no longer provide populations with “effective protection against harm and damage”, such as restricting the import of illegal items now sold online through websites such as eBay, Alibaba and, until its closure in 2013, the illegal drug trade website Silk Road (ABC/Reuters, 2013).
While globalisation presents benefits for technologically- and socially-advanced nations, it’s important to recognise its shortfalls. Smith and Naim (2000, p. 8) state, “Globalisation has carried with it a remarkably uneven distribution of costs and benefits. The result, for the most part, has been to exacerbate inequalities of wealth, consumption, and power within and between countries”; they continue: “globalisation has coincided with a decade of increasing concentration of income, wealth, and control over resources” (ibid). Roy (2008, p. 12) says one example of the negative impacts of globalisation can be seen in social and employment preference toward Anglo-Indians (mix-raced British-Indian persons) following Indian independence; an economic and social barrier of privilege between qualified, educated Anglo-Indians and non-qualified, uneducated Indians “reduced [non-Anglo Indians] to a life of penury and social exclusion” following the creation of the independent Indian state. Smith and Naim (2000, p. 8) concluded, “far from financing a convergence of fortunes between rich and poor people, globalisation has coincided with . . . [an] increasing concentration of income, wealth, and control over resources”.
Reese (2010, p. 350) states, “Technology-enabled connections permit a redistribution of relationships, creation of new communities, and growth of new subnational, supranational, and transnational spaces. Journalism . . . is changing accordingly to serve these newly constituted communities”. The communication technologies and connected culture globalisation has created has forced news outlets to rethink the way they reaches audiences. Worldwide connectivity has resulted in readers turning to the internet for news and has left newspapers behind, with serious consequences for the industry; newspaper publishing is the fastest declining industry on earth (Barth, 2015). Digitalising journalism has benefits: accessibility, ease and price of publication (to name a few), but globalisation has damaged traditional news outlet profitability and, potentially, sustainability. By 2011 worldwide newspaper profits had dropped to less than half of those seen in the 1990s (Newspaper Association of America, 2012). Carr (2009) of the New York Times said “the threat [of bankruptcy] is not just to the companies that own them, but to news itself”. He warns more digital news publishing, and the inherent profit losses from going digital, risks devaluing and eventually halting the output of professional written journalism.
Reese (2010, p. 350) states, “New digital media connect the world and lowers the distinctions between professional and citizen; both can express themselves and be potentially received most anywhere in the world”. Blogging (e.g. WordPress) and micro-blogging (e.g. Twitter) culture allows non-journalists to contribute to the news and provide comments, rather than be recipients only. Reese (2010, p. 344) says communications technology improvements have “dramatically changed the practice of journalism”, forcing it to “include more citizen-based expression” (ibid, p. 350). The major benefit of digitalisation is a larger audience, which increases the scope and power of the news. Furthermore, “professional media [now] take citizens into account and are obliged to embrace their efforts” (ibid). Media outlets and journalists are now usually contactable on Twitter and Facebook and it’s unusual to find a news website without a “comments” section below each article. Globalisation has pushed journalism to become more connected with its receivership. But while the connection between community and journalist is improved through globalisation, digitalisation has resulted in profit drops, job cuts and – in worst cases – newspaper closures due to unsustainability. Newspaper shut-downs are now so common that The Guardian carries an online catalogue of newspaper closures across the world (The Guardian, 2015). While news outlets have embraced their ability to broadcast to a worldwide audience, the move to digital journalism has greatly damaged the sustainability of traditional written journalism.
Globalisation has been a major force for change worldwide. It has brought cultures together and has aided the development of economies and technology, strengthening the global community. We can communicate with friends and business partners across the world in real-time, and learn about global news in an instant. But for marginalised communities and industries including journalism, globalisation has its negatives. The Indian community is just one of a multitude affected by early European globalisation, which has created a social inequality between persons of mix and non-mix race. Globalisation offers written news outlets a greater audience, but at the cost of the industry’s sustainability; digital news has halved newspaper revenue in 20 years, job cuts are frequent within the industry and newspaper publishers have been forced to close because of the effects of digitalising the profession. Steger comments globalisation “benefits everyone” (Steger, 2009, p. 20), but that view is from a Western perspective. To the West globalisation presents enormous advantages; strengthening economic, social and technological ties. However, while globalisation presents positives, it mustn’t be ignored that globalisation does not make all industries more profitable and has been shown to marginalise select diaspora.
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