If video killed the radio star, is Internet killing the print and video stars? And if so, how should current journalists adapt and current journalism students prepare?
These are questions that newspapers and television networks are grappling with on a daily basis. They were also among the many topics discussed at Mashable’s “NextUp NYC – The Future Journalist” event last night at the 92YTribeca as part of Social Media Week here in New York.
A year ago, TIME magazine predicted that a journalism crisis was approaching “meltdown proportions” and that “some major cities will no longer have a newspaper.” The alarm bells rang even louder when The Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer shut down for good and The Philadelphia Daily News and Minneapolis Star-Tribune filed for bankruptcy soon thereafter.
Video coverage of Wednesday’s panel:
But according to last night’s panelists, Sree Sreenivasan (@sreenet), the Columbia Journalism School Dean of Students, and Vadim Lavrusik (@lavrusik), one of Professor Sreenivasan’s Digital Media graduate students, journalism isn’t dying. It’s simply evolving. Even as many traditionalists feared the end of beat reporters, in-depth coverage, investigative reporting and newsmaker/celebrity accountability, the sounds of their struggles are being drowned out by the sound of keyboards clicking, video streams playing, Twitter feeds refreshing and RSS feeds updating.
With upwards of three hundred journalists, PR gurus and social media aficionados filling the lofted space in lower Manhattan, the teacher and his student optimistically agreed that a new era of “tra-digital” journalism, the surface of which has barely been breached, is upon us. They astutely compared where we are now in a digital age to where radio was in 1912 and television was in 1950. (You can view their shared presentation at http://bit.ly/futurej.)
As a veteran of the news industry and well-connected social media insider, Sreenivasan navigated through the multiple uses of new and emerging platforms and how they can apply to the “old world.” (He doesn’t get GoogleWave yet, but who does?) He emphasized the need for today’s journalists to learn multiple talents while retaining a specialty that distinguishes them from their peers. Working together, Sreenivasan and Lavrusik also explained how to become a multimedia storyteller, “learning and understanding what media is right for what story.”
Some other required qualities and skills for experienced and news journalists alike are to become reliable “pointers,” helping cut through the noisy clutter and sharing good content from across the web. They stressed the value of “community managers” that listen and interact with readers/viewers and don’t simply broadcast their messages in one direction. Additional “best practices” encourage newshounds to think about their own brand and adopt an entrepreneurial spirit.
The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism is a top, if not THE top, journalism program in the country. Yet the curriculum taught just a decade ago is already an antiquated relic of a lost era. Faced with advances in technology and expanded use of the Internet, the next generation of journalists is training for professional opportunities in a changing media landscape that might be very different in another ten years down the road. Meanwhile, the journalists of today must reconstruct their skill sets for the growing world of online media.
It is imperative that journalists of today and tomorrow develop a “digital media mindset”—how to think about news stories and packages from an online perspective. Look no further than our hosts for the evening. Mashable plays an important role in the publication of digital news, trends and technologies. (In fact, Mashable has become such an institution in my own daily diet of fact-gathering that it now holds the fourth spot on my iGoogle home page, batting clean-up behind my Gmail inbox and RSS feeds from CNN and ESPN.)
Throughout the course of the discussion, a number of the journalists in the room were taking notes, some even sticking around as the crowds dispersed to learn more, dig deeper – clear indication of a reporter’s nose for information, if you will. And that, as the professor noted throughout his presentation, is just one of several skills that will never be rendered obsolete, along with the ability to observe, ask questions, process thoughts and write.