Saturday, January 24, 2009
The State of Journalism: 6:26 p.m. Jan. 24, 2009
One of my students posed these questions on the "state of journalism" for another one of his classes at LBCC:
1. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing journalism today?
The biggest challenge facing today’s journalists remains the same as ever: Gathering, analyzing, organizing and disseminating information for the benefit of readers and citizens in a democracy. Just like other industries, the media goes through periods of upheaval, change and innovation. We’re seeing that now, especially in the economic struggle of newspapers. From a consumer point of view, however, information has never been so plentiful. The challenge for those in the media is adapting to the technological and economic realities of the new millennium and satisfying the unprecedented demand for information.
2. How has the economy put pressure on journalism to adapt?
The media benefited from an immensely profitable economic model throughout the 20th century. Nothing in this world is guaranteed, however. And while they were enjoying healthy profits, the media – newspapers in particular – weren’t innovating aggressively enough or investing in serving the next generation of news consumers. For the past decade TV has been quicker to adopt new technology and adapt to the demands of its customers, whether incorporating the latest in video technology or expanding online.
3. What can students entering journalism do to avoid extinction?
As in any profession, journalists – whether veteran reporters or those just starting out – must stay current in their skills and knowledge. Those now in college not only must become well acquainted in the tasks and traditions of journalism, but they also must master rapidly evolving technology. It used to be that new journalists could find work if they excelled in writing, editing or photography. These days they have to be able to excel at all these tasks in addition to all aspects of online journalism, from writing and maintaining a blog to shooting, editing and posting video reports.
4. What are the benefits of journalists being forced to learn multitasking?
Journalists capable of mastering all the tools available for gathering and disseminating information always have been in highest demand. That hasn’t changed. Just as the most successful newspaper reporters learned how to incorporate the skills of radio and television journalists, today’s young reporters need to be knowledgeable about all these mediums as well as online. Those who can maintain the utmost versatility will continue to capitalize on all the opportunities the media has to offer.
5. What's the best advice you ever received as a journalist?
Practice, practice, practice. In the broadest sense, this means get out of the office, ask questions, get answers, and share what you learn. Journalism isn’t that difficult. As with anything else, the more you practice the better you become. The more stories you write, the more interviews you conduct, and the more photos you take, the better journalist you will be.
Note: To paraphrase Charles Dickens: “These are the best of times, these are the worst of times…” While some aspects of the media are struggling to redefine themselves and their economic reality, I believe it’s never been more exciting to be a journalist, especially a young, college-age journalist. The opportunities for applying the research, analysis, writing and presentation skills of a journalist have never been in greater demand.
(Photo credit: "Reuter's (sic) Got Mojo" by inju, courtesy of Flickr.com)