Since news organizations realized the Internet was not going to fizzle out any time soon, there has been the debate of what will happen to traditional journalism. Many people come to terms that the old days of having to read a tangible newspaper are quickly fading into obscurity. I mean, why would you pay for a newspaper when you can read the exact same thing online? Without ever having to even get off the couch. And with this change to “instant news,” journalists are having to change their strategy. It is nearly impossible for journalists to have the same time frame for news stories that they used to.
A journalist or reporter can’t simply take notes, and then go home and write up a story to then be edited and printed in the morning’s newspaper. People want up-to-the-minute knowledge of what’s going on in the world. “Taking notes” these days has turned into giving constant updates on your Twitter (Hermida, 2010; Lasorsa, Lewis, Holton, 2012), or immediately uploading a video of an incident to YouTube.
And even now, just posting text updates to Twitter isn’t enough. People want pictures and videos to go along with news tweets.
This isn’t to say that all of traditional journalism has been tossed in the trash. People still turn to traditional news outlets like CNN or the local newspaper, only it’s on these organization’s websites. In fact, a 2008 research study ranks “Ability to learn,” “editing,” and “research” within the top 10 of “Importance of Skills for Online Journalists” (Fahmy, 2008). Journalists need to be able to keep the idea of “traditional journalism” like good storytelling and expressing the truth, while embracing new journalism techniques like using social and new media (like web design, programming, and database skills).
I think the Director of Interactive News at the New York Times, Aaron Pilhofer, said it best:
“I don’t think every journalist needs to be a programmer… I think, of course, it wouldn’t hurt… but I think every journalist has to as least understand the basics of the medium.”
This is especially important for future journalists (college students). Colleges need to embrace the new mediums in which journalism will have to inhabit. Instead of teaching students how to write for a newspaper, they need to teach students how to write for the web. As Pilhofer says in the video, traditional journalism skills will never change, but the tools and platforms will change, and journalists need to adapt.
There is also an importance for journalists to study data analysis and develop database skills. In an article focusing on Sir Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web), Lee says the future of journalism lies in analyzing data.
“Journalists need to be data-savvy. It used to be that you would get stories by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that you’ll do it that way some times… But now it’s also going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country.” (Arthur, 2010)
Data seems to be a gold mine these days, not only for journalists to keep things like government spending in check, but for companies like Facebook and Google, who rake in the dough because of what you post on your Facebook, or what you search for in Google. They use this endless stream of information to allow advertisers to get closer to you. If this kind of information is so easily accessible, journalists can use it to keep politicians’ noses clean.