The most important thing for any aspiring journalist to understand is that he or she is entering a field that is full of change and unpredictability. The TOW Center’s report, Post Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present, makes more than clear that the news industry is constantly changing with new innovations through social media and overall information consumption.
I understand the projections that point towards much more specialized news outlets in the future. The report predicts “The news ecosystem of 2020 will be a study in expansion, with heightened contrasts between
extremes. More people will consume more news from more sources.” To me, that means outlets will become more focused on one particular beat, or one particular aspect of news.
That follows a trend that has been seen with blogging. Anyone with internet access can start a blog. Anyone with a blog can report the news. Anyone, nowadays, who reports news is a journalist. Anything from a Tweet to an entire blog article can be news.
Professional or “citizen,” a journalist today must separate him or herself from the pack. Credibility is always the focal-point of success in the industry. But, the one with the best working knowledge of social media and online tools is going to reach a wider audience. Additionally, the one that adapts quickest, is in better position to succeed.
The report adds, “The old model, where most users visited a home page or used a mobile application tied to a single organization, will continue to lose ground to superdistribution, users forwarding relevant materials to one another.”
I believe this is most telling of the industry’s ever-changing nature. The amount of likes or retweets a post gets is indicative of the outlet’s success at connecting with the audience. Beyond that, a retweet displays the post to, what can be considered, an untapped market. It’s free advertising (and distribution). The key is to report material that the audience will enjoy and want to share. An outlet may find that its audience enjoys baseball stories, but stories about individual players get shared the most. At some point, that outlet may start reporting only individual player stories. That is the path the industry is projected on.
However, it’s impossible to know what innovations will be around years from now. That is why a journalist must be adaptable and prepared. It’s not a simple matter of connecting the dots and reaching a conclusion.
Journalism is not changing linearly; it’s undergoing change based on change.