The future of the journalism industry

When I tell people I am studying journalism, I am often greeted with the same cynical response — that there are no jobs for journalists anymore.

It is said as though I am being handed me down a revelation that I was previously unaware of, when in actual fact, journalism students are more aware than most.

Throughout our degrees, the changing nature of journalism has been central to every subject and is often accompanied by a breadth of grim statistics about declining newspaper sales and increasing redundancies.

Yes, we are aware that Fairfax CEO Grey Hywood recently came forward to signal the end of print newspapers. We are also aware that hundreds of Fairfax employees have lost their jobs over recent years.

What people fail to realise is that we were never part of journalism’s ‘golden age’, nor will we ever know the feeling of racing to meet the evening deadline before the paper goes to print.

In 2006, Journalism Professor Jay Rosen published a piece called ‘The People Formerly Known as the Audience’. He unveiled a new age of user participation, connectedness and the end of the audience as we know it.

This idea that readers were once purely readers, is a concept that is foreign to journalism students in 2017. We have always run with the assumption that someone can comment, share and like/dislike our stories.

Instead of pessimism, we are fed optimism. We learn how to be savvy on social media, how to use multimedia programs and how to produce interesting online content. These skills are not new to us — our lives revolve around feeds, tags, filters and special effects.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism published a report last year which collected data from journalists about their perceptions of the future of journalistic work.

From the 509 journalists that were interviewed, 86% agreed or strongly agreed that journalists will have to engage in personal branding through social media, blogs, public appearances, etc. to succeed professionally in the future.

What is clear from this report is that journalists are not naïve about the future. They are constantly adapting and are painfully aware of the challenges the profession is facing.

So if journalists, and future journalists are becoming equipped to deal with what’s ahead, what is holding the media industry back?

A poignant piece by Nic Christensen, former media editor for Mumbrella, suggests that the media industry needs to change its business model in order to keep up with consumer habits.

This graph by posted by Mumbrella demonstrates the current business model is clearly failing, with an increasing and rapid decline of newspaper sales.

If we assume that newspapers are on the way out, we shouldn’t assume that readers will pay for online news content — because they will likely find it somewhere else.

There have been calls for paywalls, branded content, crowd funding campaigns and increases in government funding to save journalism.

It is important to make the distinction about what we want to save. Content is the majority of what we see online these days, with stories being buried amongst the never ending news cycle.

Journalism is something that will continue to have impact, relevance and spark debate. I believe there will always be a place for quality journalism, that questions, scrutinizes and holds people to account.

In order to save quality journalism, there will be a need for greater transparency, with more resources and time allocated to specific journalists — by specific journalists, I mean a journalist that isn’t doing a million things at once.

It will be increasingly important to maintain trustworthy relationships with the readership by creating a niche market. The Guardian Australia is a successful example of this, establishing itself with ground breaking stories such as ‘The Nauru Files’.

If we embrace the creativity of story telling, we can move beyond plain text by incorporating multimedia platforms and links to further resources. The key will be to hone in on something specific, to give the reader a new perspective or insight.

Although I may not be a traditional journalist in my future career, I refuse to believe people when they tell me I shouldn’t be studying journalism. The skills of interviewing, fact checking and quality writing will always be relevant so long as there are stories to tell.

A study by Sustainable Journalism has hypothesised potential jobs for the future of journalism, including explanatory journalism, data analysis, social media reporting and a headline optimizing.

In the future, I acknowledge that I may be working in a role that is yet to be created. Although this is daunting, I chose to be optimistic about the changes in the industry because from what I’ve observed, journalists are acutely aware of their importance in society and are not prepared to give it up.

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