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


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