What is “Journalism” Anyway?
If you’ve ever made the brave (and some may say stupid) decision to become a journalism student in the age of the internet, you’ve most likely heard time and time again by peers, family members, and even professors that journalism is dying. With every passing day, more and more local papers are forced to close their doors and one less paper is printed. Journalism, as a profession, is at a crossroad. Across the board, seasoned journalists are trying to grapple with making journalism profitable while still keeping up with newer, internet-native publications.
I was one of these students; told hundreds of times by too many people to count that journalism as we knew it is long over. But my professors in the School of Journalism and Communication said otherwise. They sought to not only tell us it wasn’t over, but show us in the bustling industry hub of New York City. In early May, a cohort of 14 journalism students from the University of Oregon visited with stars in their eyes, eager to find the key to making it in journalism.
What we found was somehow a mixture of everything we knew, and what we were warned against. Almost no place we went throughout the week was immune to the changes happening in the industry. Yes! Even The New York Times and other legacies thought to be safe in their ivory towers struggled with this new digital world! I could lie and say I was unfettered by these revelations, but that would be untrue. However, as the week went on, I realized that these industry changes weren’t the detriment to my career that I feared.
The SOJC raised me on digital and I was ready for it.
When we had the opportunity to visit the graduate programs at the City University of New York (CUNY) and Columbia University, every person we spoke to pressed the importance of moving beyond the boundaries of print journalism. At CUNY, students were learning how to cover traditional beats while also playing with drones.
At these leading institutions, we were told nothing but good things about what we may expect in our futures. So what if we may not start at a small local publication and work our way up the ladder? The future of journalism belongs to those of us who learn new skills like community engagement, video production, analytics, or even virtual reality.
“Journalism is not in a vacuum,” Claire Wardle, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia, said. “It’s affected by the world we live in and that’s a good thing.”
But understanding what that means for our craft is not so easy. Knowing that “our world” craves instant gratification, cat videos, and Beyonce often is not as easy to understand in regard to the fundamental pillars of journalism.
Many in the business refer to this as the “BuzzFeed-ification” of news. With the internet so saturated with content, it is easy to give in to click bait journalism to keep these operations afloat.
At The New Yorker, it was interesting to see this difficult intersection. Though they have not abandoned their print magazine, they have found that their internet traffic is significant. Not only in number, but also in engagement. Users who find The New Yorker tend to click around, check out what’s in humor, tech, cartoons even. Because videos are the most popular of all internet, they have even begun to dive into this vein with the series Comma Queen.
On the other hand, even companies like BuzzFeed are unsure how to proceed. Even the franchise born in the age of the internet with successes like Tasty and Try Guys struggles with how to compete as a legitimate news source. Despite BuzzFeed being one of the most rapidly growing news organizations at this time, it struggles often with being seen as reputable like competitors like The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. In spite of all this, the organization has made quite the mark and continues to use multiple types of journalism from longform investigative pieces to multimedia pieces to spread the news to viewers.
On the other hand, places like Blue Chalk have made a home for themselves at the intersection of old and new media. This organization is able to tell stories, do great journalism, advocate, or even market products focused on finding humanity we can relate to. Blue Chalk is able to do this by sticking with what makes stories interesting in the first place: interesting people with great stories. Even though this may not manifest in a typical, reporting format as it might have in years past, Blue Chalk is ultimately successful for their ability to take these stories and translate them on screen.
So, as a student of journalism and cinema studies, this trip was pivotal in helping me discover what I can and cannot do. I have spent the last several years in the journalism school learning how to use social media to market myself, make videos, and how to do a little bit of everything to make myself a valuable media professional.
I was worried before that my experiences doing video would not be as valuable as my few experiences with writing. However, it seems the digital future leans towards multimedia, which I will happily jump on board with. Even though the world loves to say that the there is no future in journalism, there is! It just may not mirror the career path that journalists of years past have followed. As the world relies more and more on the internet and digital media, is important that journalism follow suit.
If you’ve ever made the brave (and some may say stupid) decision to become a journalism student in the age of the internet, you’ve most likely heard time and time again that journalism is dying. Next time, be brave enough to tell the naysayers to shove it.