John

How Journalism Has Changed

In News on April 17, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Was hit by a wave of good ol’ nostalgia when I came across this piece on the Guardian Student Media Awards, which recently celebrated its 30th year. A lot has changed since it started, but more so in the past decade or so thanks to the Web. I remember the difficulties I had to go through (and the subsequent joy) of having my first published piece in Men’s Review. It was an embarrasing piece of literature (do you remember yours, Marcus?) on Andy Warhol, but it made me want to show the magazine to random bus-travelers with my IC and say to them “I wrote this!”.

Shortly after, I realised the pitfalls of being published–having a byline does not get women calling me up on a Saturday night and saying how brilliant I was and would I like to go out on a date? Nada. Zilch.

Oh, anyway. Back to the great piece, which sums up how journalism is being re-shaped by digital media, giving everyone easy access to get published. But journalism, it contends, at its heart remains the same–find a good story, have your sources right, deliver it in a compelling way.

In this new age of digital media, journalism school is getting outmoded if you ask me. Not that it isn’t necessary, but really, these days it’s your blog, facebook, social networking, how you brand yourself as a journalist that matters just as much as your journalistic skills. It’s a new world that’s easier and harder at the same time–easier because the tools to publish yourself are available freely; harder because you’ve got to make yourself rise above the din of mediocrity.

I speak like Seth Godin now. LOL.

Excerpt from The Guardian:

The demands of the new forms of delivery put more pressures on journalists. But they also offer more opportunities. Look at my own feeble efforts to break into print 25 years ago – relying on a time-pressured Alan Rusbridger to take my call. There was nowhere else to publish my “scoop” (whatever it was). Now there’s nothing to prevent you breaking your story online yourself, whether it’s print or video. But to break through, those journalistic rules will always apply: the story has to be good, and well told. No one’s going to take your blog seriously if it’s a tissue of unsourced, irrelevant witterings.

But the possibilities are almost endless. Take the recent success of the undercover reporter in the United States who obtained a job in a slaughterhouse in California and blew the lid on some of the shocking practices he uncovered by publishing his video on the web. It sparked corrective action and a nationwide debate in the US about the humane treatment of animals. Why was it so effective? Of course, it was because the core story was so powerful. But also because it was well-edited and could easily be accessed and given wider currency by the mainstream media.

So the story always comes first. Throw in some traditional practical skills if you can – basics such as fast, accurate typing, for instance, never go amiss.

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