Journalists say the future of journalism is bleak

Jim Romenesko’s blog highlighted the findings of a recent journalism survey of 1,080 U.S. journalists…and they don’t like what they see for the future.direction

  • Job satisfaction went from 33.3% of journalists who said they were “very satisfied” with their job in 2002, to 23.3% in 2013.
  • Six in ten say their newsrooms have shrunk during the past year, while only 13.2% report newsroom growth. 
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  • Fewer journalists say that concentrating on news that’s of interest to “the widest possible audience” is extremely important.
  • The number of minority journalists working for the U.S. news media has decreased from 9.5% in 2002 to 8.5% in 2013.

These statistics are sobering for an up-and-coming journalist, and they make the future look somewhat bleak. I’ve noticed that’s a trend for a lot of articles directed toward my generation of journalists. It’s not to say that these numbers are made up, they’re very real, but that they don’t account for the changing factors in the last 12 years.

In terms of job satisfaction, I can’t speak on behalf of the surveyed journalists. It could be that they don’t care for the “new” style of journalism, their coworker is intolerable, or they want more money.  The shrinking of newsrooms has been a trend because people are jacks-of-all-trades; the journalist is the blogger is the social media correspondent. And as we’ve learned, a lot of production has moved online. The belief that it’s not as important to provide content to the widest audience is an idea that goes hand-in-hand with an online journalism model. Niche audiences and targeted advertising mean that widespread audiences are not the key to success any longer.

A lot of the facts are made to seem like the future is dark, but I prefer to view it optimistically and attribute the failures to change. The one statistic that I can’t make sense of is the decrease in minority journalists, though a small one. That’s something I would like to see change.

Donald Sterling Storify

Is Vox’s open journalism too transparent?

This week, Karen Fratti of 10,000 words discussed Vox.com’s open interview strategy. Its aim is to provide transparency and context to interview journalism by providing a transcript of the entire interview. The article itself will feature the usual amount of hand-selected quotes, but upon scrolling over it, the section the quote came from appears.

Clicking gif to reveal full interview

How to view a quote in the context of an interview

I can see where the benefits of this method come in: credibility, honesty, and all that jazz. However, it puts too much pressure on the journalist and the interviewee. Part of the beauty of an interview is that both people are supposed to come out sounding good by cutting out the drivel. Now the journalist’s questions will be exposed (we know that there are always a few lame fillers) and the interviewee will be more nervous to open up.

Fratti equated this feature to a DVD commentary; some will watch it but most won’t. However, I think it takes away from the journalist-interviewee relationship. In trying to make interviews more open, the interviewee is more likely to close up for fear of looking stupid.

 

Reporter Simon Ostrovsky taken by Ukrainian government

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post regarding Vice’s brand new news division . It seems like “people’s mayor” Vyacheslav Ponomarev is taking the journalism of Vice seriously; he has captured Vice reporter Simon Ostrovsky.


Ostrovsky has posted a series of video dispatches from Ukraine since March, which could have prompted the capture by Ponomarev. In the past, the militia in Ukraine has held journalists against their will.

Journalists being captured in war regions or by dictators has become an unfortunate trend for journalists abroad. As journalists and future reporters, we all want to be the one to uncover a dangerous scoop. However, there can be a price to pay. When working abroad, safety is one of the most important concerns. Always have a backup plan and err on the side of caution. There are some situations that can’t be avoided, and Ostrovsky could have been one such situation.

Personally, I will pay attention in the following weeks and hope for the return of Vice’s reporter. This is a sobering reminder that journalists don’t just sit behind a desk; there are very real dangers with this job.

Turning creativity to cash

Journalism is one of those fields where creativity is treasured in theory. The most talented writers or site designers are surely those with creativity to spare. Often they must stifle their creativity by sticking within the company’s format or guidelines. What’s the point of having an arsenal of creative minds within your reach if they are being smothered by rules? This week, Mashable discussed a study regarding turning creativity into profit.

According to a study from Rice University, the University of Edinburgh and Brunel University, without utilizing creativity, companies are not at their full potential. Jing Zhou is one of the researchers from Rice University.

            “Management needs to pay attention to capture employee creativity and implement the creative ideas,” Zhou said.

It seems that the current goals are more important than long term creative changes, and that won’t work. In order to keep consumers interested, creativity needs to be considered right away.

In my current job (a sales associate at Nine West), creativity is actually looked down upon by the corporate headquarters. If we were allowed to apply our ideas to merchandising or sales itself, I believe  we could improve our sales numbers. Of course, there’s always the chance that someone would take the freedom too far. Overall, my verdict is that an injection of creativity in journalism would be healthy for revenue and readership.

creativity at work

The UK’s first female photojournalist

Women's suffrage pottery workers

Suffragette pottery workers by Christina Broom, 1909

This week, Poynter reported that Christina Broom was honored at the Museum of London with an exhibit of her photos. She is known as the UK’s first photojournalist for her depictions of life during and after WWI and during women’s suffrage. She died in 1939, and she’s just getting acclaim for her work.

The 70+ years delay in Broom receiving accolades is a bit disturbing. It’s a reminder that achievements are not always rewarded, as depressing as that may sound. That’s why it’s important to set goals that are not just about fame or recognition, but about telling the truth the best that you can. If journalism is about the fame, the passion is not in the right place.

A more positive angle to this story is that a woman is being recognized as a pioneer in a field where men have normally taken the lead (see Matthew Brady and Steve McCurry). Especially considering the time that she was working, she had to cross a lot of red tape to do her job.

In a field where innovation is constantly pushed, it can seem like there’s nothing new left. Broom’s photography is an example of continuing to push the standard further, and we should take that into account as journalists.

What’s real on April 1?

As I scrolled through the daily news, I was bombarded by absurd headlines. I couldn’t discern truth (it’s stranger than fiction) from trickery. I was tempted to skip reading the news today to avoid confusion. Sifting through the lies is the task of news consumers on April Fools’ Day. That’s why this article on Mashable caught my eye…assuming it’s real.

Some argue that partaking in the tomfoolery is unprofessional for big brands. Others say that it lends to the playful image of them, or gives a face to the name. It humanizes tech, which is hard to do. April Fools’ Day is the one time that companies feel comfortable with going way off the beaten path. The question is whether its unprofessional or ingenious.

David Hasselhoff photobombs two hikers

One of Google’s joke features allows users to add celebrity photobombs to their photos.

I believe that April Fools’ jokes in large companies like Google should be accepted, because it’s what consumers expect from the brand. They have a playful image, and they do this every year– they have 14 this year. If other brands decided to partake in the jokes, they should make it abundantly clear until it’s known that they are the April fooling type. Otherwise, gullible readers might believe what they read and spread false info. As a result, the organization could lose the trust of the consumers.

 

Are robot journalists the future?

The idea of robots being capable of human jobs brings to mind a 1950s B-movie of robots taking over the world. Recent studies have found that sports stories written by robots are unrecognizable from those written by humans. The Guardian challenged a robot to write a story about quinoa. The results were less than spectacular:

 

“The crime-ridden family of quinoa has taken US by storm this month. According to Peru, New York has confirmed that quinoa is more story than anything else they’ve ever seen. Quotes from top Yotam Ottolenghi eaters suggest that “crop” is currently clear top, possibly more than ground black pepper. Experts say both Salt and University need to traditionally grow to strengthen a common solution. Finally, it is worth slightly rattling that this article was peeled until it made sense.”

 

This could be the future of journalism. We constantly talk about moving online from print; what happens afterward? It’s a stretch, but it could begin with robots writing sports stories.automated robot journalism

While this was an interesting experiment, I see robots as a novelty in journalism rather than a threat. It would be expensive, and is currently not reliable. Perhaps robots can help with tasks like proofreading and fact checking. Until then, journalists don’t have to worry about being outmoded by robots… yet.

Making journalism social

The topic of turning the conventional newspaper into an online-friendly experience is one that’s constantly discussed by media professionals. In fact, it’s the reason that we’re in a class about web journalism. 10,000 Words’s article  furthered the discussion with interviews from successful online news sites.

Currently, The Wall Street Journals receives 37% of its traffic on its mobile site. Mashable receives 45% mobile traffic. This trend of mobile and online journalism is not leaving. The WSJ’s social media editor is determined to grow with the change, not be destroyed by it.

The tips that she offered can be applied from the smallest blog (hey fellow students!) to media giants like The Wall Street Journal:

  • Make headlines short and easy to share
  • Deliver info in shorter bites
  • Be unconventional: use layout, videos, new technology
  • Be visual

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This is interesting, because in my career, I’ll likely be using these types of guidelines- if not newer ones. Technology is always emerging that can be integrated with news. Making headlines and text easy to digest is something that’s being imprinted on journalism students pretty heavily. The most interesting points to take away are being unconventional. It’s risky, but it can lead to more traffic and can pave the way. Finally, be visual! Color and images are what people look for, especially on small screens.

I think a lot of these are fairly obvious, but it’s critical to note that there is a difference between print and online journalism. The approach has to change. There’s a chance some traditional print publications won’t be able to keep up, and while the loss will be sad, it’s survival of the fittest. News has to be new.

Vice Magazine joins the breaking news biz

This week, I read this story via Mashable about Vice  entering into the news business in a big way. They’ve had their Youtube channel for a while, but they’re now covering breaking news. Coverage will be subjective and first person, giving news the urgency Vice feels it deserves.

Vice’s $50 million investment in “new news” with new technology is an important step in the future of online reportage. Many news outlets have tried to just take their print format and turn it into a video for online. That’s not how it works, and Vice understands that. They will keep their videos under 5 minutes, and provide a weekly roundup of headlines. This is an approach that could be utilized by other news outlets to interest a younger audience. Here’s their roundup feature for this week:

I’ve never thought of Vice as a news-oriented company, other than pop culture or music news. I’m interested to see how it pans out and if other companies follow their model- though MTV News has been around for quite awhile. My only concern is that the “on-the-ground, subjective” coverage could become gimmicky, or just plain bad. That’s not the impression I get from the videos on their Youtube channel; the videos are all very professional and engaging. As long as Vice carefully validates the information and their reporters, this could be a great movement forward.

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