It is difficult to be a journalist in the modern world. Print is quickly going out of fashion, and to stay relevant the average journalist must learn to do be a one man production team in order to provide value to their outlet. For all but the most respected and talented journalists it is no longer enough to seek the truth and report it, the reporter should be able to produce digital content with a full report, video, relevant links and twitter references with hash tag friendly titles and phrases.
Though it is still important for any reporter to keep his ear to the ground and stay on top of breaking newsworthy events, to stay competitive in the shrinking job market, the modern journalist must be able to contribute as much or more commercial value. In his article “It’s Hard Out There for a 21st-Century Future Journalist of Tomorrow,” Renay San Miguel describes a few job listings looking for new reporters. Each describes and ideal candidate as someone who not only has skill and instincts as a journalist, but also someone who has knowledge of computers and web design and who can produce their own content for digital media.
But such expectation can be daunting for aspiring journalist and old hands alike. Many in the field have spent their career, or at least their time in school, dreaming of uncovering stories that could change people’s lives, hoping to speak truth to power and make a difference in the world. Finding out that what matters to their prospective employers is page hits and frequency of posts rather than in depth reporting and hard worked quality pieces.
In her article “A tale of two newsrooms,” Amy Kingsley tells the story of the Las Vegas Sun’s foray into digital media. Despite sharing a brand name with the entity that, through in depth research and careful reporting, brought home the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to a Las Vegas newspaper, the on-line site, under the tutelage of Rob Curley, quickly switched formats to quick production of constant new content focused on counting those ever important page views and the lowest common denominator. Reporters who had been proud to work for a media outlet that focused on strong, deep reporting recoiled, and many left, when faced with focusing on traffic fatalities and celebrity gossip.
The news industry is a fickle mistress and capturing the attention of consumers is important to the success of any outlet, but the industry is still trying to find its way with new business models replacing traditional subscriptions and guaranteed readers or viewers. It is easy to fall into the pattern of catchy titles and exciting promos just to get that view, but the more versatile quality journalists can themselves, the more they can control the path the modern news reporting follows. It is important that the most dedicated and talented reporters take learn the skill necessary to control the journey, and not just tag along for the ride.