Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 25, 200910:38 PM

On Journalism

If you're interested in a career in Journalism, think long and hard about what it will mean to "be" a Journalist in the next six months.

Here's the dark: Journalism 2.0 - ABC's Gibson out of touch, sends college journalists wrong message.

Here's the light: David Meerman Scott - An open letter to journalists: You have an amazing career opportunity on the Dark Side.

It's a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I began my career in Marketing and Communications as a Journalist, and I still contribute to places like the Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Marketing Magazine and - starting soon - En Route Magazine. Believe it or not, I consider myself a journalist first, and a marketer second (curiosity, the humility to ask questions, and an ability to develop a story have been core to building interesting digital marketing initiatives). Along with that, I frequently present to publishing companies and have a deep passion for that industry.

What is a Journalist in 2009?

It might be easier to ask: what was a Journalist? Traditionally, a journalist was the conduit of a community. They were the individuals that would gather the important information of a community, synthesize it and distribute it via a publishing channel to the mass community. Journalists were also empowered to be "different" than the rest of us. They had to be able to ask the tough questions of those who governed and ruled over us. They had to deliver content in a fair and balanced manner, so that people could come to their own conclusions. The information had to be distilled as honestly as possible - leaving out both religious and political bias.

Journalism was a service to the community.

Newspapers quickly added other components: from opinions to editorials to entertainment. In essence, newspapers became a mass media platform. As other mass media channels entered the fray, it became a battle for the advertising dollars.

It still is a battle for the advertising dollar.

Journalists no longer simply pitch (or get stories assigned), do the research and interviews (with proper fact-checking), and then file a story. Journalists are now multimedia producers.

It takes a lot more to be a Journalist in 2009? 

In no short order, Journalists have to better understand how copy works in print and online (from Blogs and Twitter to online publishers). They have to become search engine optimization experts. They have to be as comfortable working a M-Audio MicroTrack audio recorder and Flip video camera as they are working a keyboard. They have to embrace the idea that a BlackBerry could well be their lifeline to the future success of their career. They have to understand that the days of bringing a photographer and videographer along for the story might be coming to a close (the journalist is going to have to do the interview, shoot the video, grab some stills and more). They also have to embrace the idea that they may, indeed, have to write for free in certain spaces with the sheer goal of growing their audience and personal brand. Journalists will have to look for multiple streams of income, and this might include books deals, adding some kind of advertising or affiliate program tied into a Blog and more. Lastly, they are going to have to embrace the Internet. Not just as a communication channel, but as a set of powerful publishing tools. Everything from RSS, tagging, linking and online publishing. These are tools and platforms to help them succeed.

Journalism is changing...

... and it's going to change a lot more as some of the major publishers continue to grapple with the digitization of their industry and the realities of the shifting advertising dollars. On one hand, a journalist can see how much the Web has changed their world in a negative way (people expect this type of content to be free, etc...), on the other hand, journalists have never had access to so many amazing tools and channels to express themselves and create a better industry to serve.

Do you think journalists have what it takes to make the transition?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Bill Doskoch
    Mitch Joel

    As I sort-of asked on Twitter, a better question is whether journalism will survive the transition to unfocused multi-media one-man-bandism storytelling.

    @billdinTO

    Reply
  • Posted by Greg O'Brien
    Mitch Joel

    You say journalists "have to understand that the days of bringing a photographer and videographer along for the story might be coming to a close (the journalist is going to have to do the interview, shoot the video, grab some stills and more). They also have to embrace the idea that they may, indeed, have to write for free in certain spaces with the sheer goal of growing their audience and personal brand. Journalists will have to look for multiple streams of income, and this might include books deals, adding some kind of advertising or affiliate program tied into a Blog and more."

    That's all well and good, and I'm doing my best to adapt, but there are still only 24 hours in a day and I like to spend some of them with my kids and with my wife and doing some other things I like to do that don't revolve around work. This is my problem as a journalist as the new media age develops...

    Reply
  • Posted by LionelatDell
    Mitch Joel

    I definitely agree that Web 2.0 technologies that have empowered average folks to publish content (blogs, sites like Flickr, YouTube, etc.) have played a hand in changing journalism.

    That said, there still is a real need for those things you called out in the what was a journalist paragraph. Those qualities are still important today.

    My point is this: while much of the content being produced by bloggers offers valuable perspective that often helps augment discussions around news that occurs, it's still not a substitute for good journalistic reporting.

    While journalists have to be more self-sufficient these days as you suggest, there's still opportunity for them to succeed. And we need them to.

    Reply
  • Posted by brian
    Mitch Joel

    i agree with the expanding role of the journalist, but overall.. the organisation has to adapt to the changing media consumption of the publics that it serves (while remaining profitable).

    that's where i hope such thinking will gear towards.. or is free culture breaking down all the institutions of past?

    Reply
  • Posted by Bryan Person
    Mitch Joel

    I may be biased because it's my (relatively new) hometown, but several reporters at the Austin Statesman-American have shown themselves to be quite adept at making at that transition from simply filing a written story (then) to a multimedia producer. Several Statesman reporters are shooting video while they are out in the field covering stories; they're also reporting and interacting with readers on blogs and on Twitter.

    So the transition is happening; some mainstream media outlets are just adapting more quickly than others

    Reply
  • Posted by eric
    Mitch Joel

    I love the internet. It eventually gets to the root of problems without all of the hullabaloo of the "authorities." This time it was thru the comments.

    Sorry greg, but this comment is a non-starter...

    """
    but there are still only 24 hours in a day and I like to spend some of them with my kids and with my wife and doing some other things I like to do that don't revolve around work. This is my problem as a journalist as the new media age develops...
    """

    Hungry journalists will succeed in the new ecosystems. Those that claim their work is secondary will find a way to teach, manage or bag groceries.

    If your life doesnt revolve around your work as a journalist, you are done. Someone whose life does revolve around journalism will take the jobs from you because he/she is willing to be there now.

    Its all good though, this purge has been a long time coming.

    Reply
  • I think we need to separate the Journalists from the Bloggers. It's not about Blogging or Bloggers. It's about the ability to write a thought and instantly publish it to the world.

    With that, you should see an increase in amazing Journalism along with those who are just using the platform as a diary. They are both valued, but they are both different and they should not be confused.

    Reply
  • Posted by Greg O'Brien
    Greg O'Brien

    Hmmm... "eric". Nice to see you have such courage behind your convictions... Not hungry, eh? Well, I have managed to launch and succeed with my own business providing real journalism to professionals in cable, radio, television and telecom in Canada. I've broken more stories in my industry in the past few years than all Canadian newspapers and other outlets combined. And I think I do OK with it being something that's secondary to my kids. My complaint was centred on there being precious little time to squish much else in there (video production, book deals, etc). Making my life revolve around work? Man, would that be stupid. Then I'd be one of those jackasses I see with their bberries out during their kids concerts and such. My first job is dad. Everything else competes for second place.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kirsten
    Mitch Joel

    One of the best pieces I've read about the revolution taking place right now: "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable" - http://bit.ly/18tDhy

    Reply
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