How has journalism changed?

I was born in 1987, and even in my short 21 years I can see how much change has taken place in the news industry, both in terms of broadcasts and printed material. Back when I first graced this world, citizen journalism was a freak concept, twitter was yet to be heard of, and the internet was still treated with suspicion. Now all three are embraced (some more than others) by journalists far and wide.

So just how much has the media industry changed in my lifetime?

The rise of citizen journalism is surely the biggest and most publicized development? The increasing involvement of the readers and viewers has fundamentally transformed the media industry. Sorry about that deep language there, but it’s true. Citizen journalism does to media fans what Tom Jones does to the Old Grannies- it excites them, it intrigues them, it turns them on and they just cant get enough of it.

When I had my first mobile phone it was a toy. I played games , I text friends (anyone help me as to why phoning people is just not fashionable these days?),  I spent hours choosing a ringtone and so on. It was a gadget that I would play with for a while and want a new one almost straight away.

Now, the mobile phone is used for a purpose which goes far beyond my attempts to beat my high score on Snake (what a great game that was!). The spread of cheap camcorders and photo-enabled mobile phones, have allowed readers and viewers to provide the news. Journalists are no longer competing against other journalists from a different newspaper or TV station, they are competing with their audience. And it is the mobile phone which is making this competition a very real one. If you add blogs to the equation, what we have is a truly revolutionary 21 years.

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. So much else has changed. For starters, online journalism is now fundamental to any print journalist. Whether it is a facebook update, a twitter update or a blog post, the journalist has to distribute news online to be sure of reaching a large audience. A journalist can no longer trust that someone will tune into the 6’o clock news or will walk to the shop to buy a paper. What they can trust is that someone will click a mouse button and get news online.

One only has to look back to the Bridgend suicides to see the role social networking sites can play in providing news. Back in March 2008, the father of one of the young boys who committed suicide only found out about the tragedy when he saw an update on his ex-wife’s social network site.

RSS provides a crucial innovation in journalism. Readers no longer need to check back to dozen’s of websites for news updates. They now have the option of subscribing to one section of a newspaper, such as sport, or even to one writer. Different bits of news can be mashed together and given to the reader in one source.

And there’s more….

Mapping is being embraced more and more these days. The Manchester Evening News provides a great example when it mapped the shootings which happened there. The Grantham Journal also mapped the ‘killer heron`. I do not think mapping has been used to its full potential yet by newsrooms but it is certainly a revolutionary tool in the way journalists are publishing material.

When speaking about how the internet has changed journalism, Sreenath Sreenivasan, associate professor of professional practice at the Columbia University School of Journalism, said: “The question is so basic now it’s like asking how the telephone changed the world. The Internet has changed journalism in every conceivable way. It’s changed the journalists, the audience, the advertisers, the whole ecosystem. It’s had the single biggest impact on journalism since the telephone.”

By watching the two videos below you can get a clear idea of just how much the journalism industry has changed throughout the ages.

Journalists are no longer the gatekeepers they once were. Journalists once had the so-called God given right to report the news but the gate is long gone. Even the term fence keepers would not accurately describe them because viewers and readers are now so prominent in news reporting. In the Eighties no one was being encouraged to call in and say what they thought about a news report or article. People don’t just call in anymore, they publish.

Back then everyone closed themselves off to change. Journalists stuck to their individual roles and that was that. Now, if they do not have the appropriate skills to keep up with convergence, then their career is likely to be a short one.

I’m sure that if I was to ask any journalist who worked both in the 1980s and today how the industry has changed, I would get a reply of “How hasn’t it?” That would be a fair comment. But one thing which hasn’t changed in my opinion is the essential skills to being a good journalist. Yes, people now have to have multi skills which weren’t necessary back then such as video training, but the skills of accuracy, curiosity, law knowledge, an eye for the right story, approachable and so on, are as important today as they ever were. Perhaps more so with the competitive environment we find ourselves in.

So yes, journalism has truly revolutionised throughout my 21 years, but the skills needed to succeed in journalism are hanging around for a little while longer yet.


2 Responses to “How has journalism changed?”

  1. Ted Higgins Says:

    I want a mobile phone. I don’t want the pathetic camera. I don’t want to text. I don’t want to play games. I don’t want to listen to music. I don’t want to watch video or TV.

    I want to be able to make a call when I’m stuck in the Brecon Beacons with no signal.


  2. gemmacasey Says:

    Yes, some people are simply using mobile phones for their main purpose-phone calls. but they are increasingly being used in the field of journalism. User generated content is now happening where members of the public are capturing live events via their mobile phones and that very footage is being shown on a news broadcast. It happened with 9/11, it happened with the Tsunami and it happened with the 7/7 bombings. Because of technology like mobile phones we dont have to wait for journalist to arrive on the scene before anything can be reported. It can be reported there and then as it is unfolding and it is a great thing for news and communications that mobile phones is allowing that to happen. Their purpose go way beyond phone calls and texts now.

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