Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

The Journalist of the Future: your reaction

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 28, 2009

Thanks to you if you commented on, shared, retweeted or blogged about my last post – Introducing: the Journalist of the Future. Thousands of hits later and your comments have been enlightening.

Here’s a summary of what you guys have been saying:

Alexandre Gamela kicked it off, and wondered whether knowledge of a specific subject is a becoming more of an advantage for journalists.

Great post, it’s great to see that some ideas i have are shared by others.I wrote about the same here, but i missed the specialist part. It’s true, a strong knowledge about a specific subject is an advantage, now more than ever.

Michele added an excellent point which I admit I overlooked:

The one area I would add to this is to say that the future journalist should also be a skilled data-miner. I think we (industry and educators) have focused heavily on multimedia storytelling (Flash and video) as the future of news, but also need to direct our attention to the wealth of information that can be had from the organization and presentation of data in the form of searchable databases and mashups.

Agreed – news gathering is as important as how it’s produced. I touched on it in a fashion, when I wrote about the importance of crowd sourcing news. And arguably – as this find by Cyberjournalist shows – it’s the ones who develop a niche for finding cool stuff who will get a headstart.

On twitter ElleAmeno wondered the same thing – “there’s a ‘driven’ quality to great reporters that’s more about ‘finding out’ than ‘telling’.” I agree : “I was wondering are there 2 types of journo? The one who loves digging stuff up and one who loves putting it out?……not wise to generalise I know, but could be a useful divide. As much as I’d love to be the former, I am prob the latter!”

Back on the blog and VJ pioneer David Dunkley-Gyimah pondered the unknown – both here and on his own blog. You can read his fascinating response here.

And could it be that if The Media Standard Trust et al work through a trusted-kite mark system to acknowledge journalists who meet the new “standard”, it’s likely they’ll be further fragmentation, such that old style journalism will persist, new will hold its own and then there’s the unknown?

The legal implications got Mark N wondering:

who pays the legal fees for the journalist of the future if some corporate entity doesn’t like what she wrote and tries to sue her to silence her?

The reason why traditional news media are important and cannot be replaced without a loss to civic life is that only salaried employees backed by the legal staff of a news organization can take the risk to do real investigative journalism. It is too easy for anyone in power to sue a freelancer.

So if you are correct, we will live in a world where one of the essential checks against corporate and government corruption will be gone. It’s a shame, but that’s where we are heading.

Quite the opposite Mark N! I think the future of journalism is a positive thing not  a negative one! He makes a good point about how freelancers (and I suppose smaller niche publications) could become easy targets for corporate lawyers, something Elle picks up on:

If lawsuits and government suppression attempt to dictate coverage, then news breaks anonymously. In current media, credibility is earned through an appearance of a professional process to guarantee accuracy and objectivity.

Emerging media have broken that appearance down to expose its very human flaws – inescapable bias, human error, vanity, fear, concentrated into small organizations. In emerging media, credibility comes from publishing the evidence directly, and context is presented through the persistently streaming nature of the media; fear, bias, subjectivity and error exist, as they always will, but are dispersed among the broad group of active participants in the news, as opposed to the broad group of passive consumers in current mass media.

Tom Matrullo wants the future journalist to be more aware of the past:

So, before the entrepreneur and the guy who plays well with others, how about the analyst? the people who remember some history? the people who study economics? the people with imagination?

And photographer Lisa Hogben get’s  back onto the money question:

And while I believe I actually fall into the category of the ‘Future Journalist’, BUT and this is the big one, I am struggling to find decently paid markets for my work and while many of us have adapted to the new skill sets necessary to produce vibrant, intelligent, well researched and critically thinking pieces, who is gonna pay for it?

Perhaps there is one very important category that can be added to the position of ‘Future Journalist’ -Salesperson.

I think “entrepreneur” covers the salesperson arena. This time you are selling yourself and your skills. It will require dogged sales skills as the market gets more competitive. But certainly the issue of funding journalism is still an unknown. Some are getting grants from charities, others being savvy with advertising.

The point of this type of future-journalist though is as a freelancer they don’t have to worry about meeting ad targets: they work alone getting a grant from here, doing a corporate gig there, selling some photography there etc…they will have to think outside the traditional realms of journalism.

But that’s what this is all about right?