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    10 Reasons There’s a Bright Future for Journalism

    by Mark Glaser
    June 28, 2007

    i-89622453e64d76823ac629fad0484b54-Bright Future.jpg
    There’s been a lot of debate lately about the future of newspapers, the future of TV, the future of radio — the future of journalism itself — in the face of drastic change brought by technology and the Internet. I’ve asked MediaShift readers whether they thought journalism’s metaphorical cup was half empty or half full and most people saw a pretty bright future.

    As you might imagine, I share their enthusiasm for the future, and wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t believe we will end up in a better place. But I’m also a hardened realist and natural skeptic, and I know there are painful months and years ahead for the (dwindling number of) people working in traditional media. Not everything new and shiny will be good for us, and there are plenty of ethical and technological pitfalls ahead.

    But rather than dwell on the negative, rail against change, or damn the upstarts at Google and Craigslist, I’d like to take a walk on the sunny side of life in new media, consider the positive aspects of all that is happening, and how we could end up in a renaissance era for journalism. While I do believe large media companies will have the most difficult time adapting to the changes, they can learn a lot from the successful business models of smaller sites such as TMZ or The Smoking Gun (both owned by media companies).

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    10 Reasons There’s a Bright Future for Journalism

    1. More access to more journalism worldwide. One of the undersung advantages of the Internet is that it gives us access to content from newspapers, TV channels, blogs and podcasts from around the world. No longer are we limited to our local media for news of the world. Now we can go directly to that corner of the world to get a local angle from far away. No one has figured out how to sell advertising that would be relevant to all those international readers, but that doesn’t mean they won’t figure it out eventually.

    2. Aggregation and personalization satisfies readers. Tired of being programmed to, we now have the tools online to program our own media experience. Whether that’s through Google News or personalizing My Yahoo or an RSS newsfeed reader, we can get quick access to the media outlets and journalism we want on one web page. Some newspaper executives have railed against Google News, but the vast majority are working on their own ways of aggregating content from other sources or offering up personalized versions of their sites (see mywashingtonpost.com). It’s a more open way of doing journalism than saying “we have all the answers here.”

    3. Digital delivery offers more ways to reach people. Before the web became popular, traditional media offered up just one way to get their content — in a print publication, by watching TV or listening to the radio. Now you can get their content online, in email newsletters, on your mobile phone and in any way that digital bits and bytes can be delivered. That’s journalism unbound from traditional format constraints.

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    4. There are more fact-checkers than ever in the history of journalism. Maybe it’s true that professional fact-checking has taken a big hit in the layoffs at mainstream media outlets, but it’s also true that bloggers and free-thinkers online have provided an important check and balance to reporting. They might have an axe to grind or a political bias, but if they uncover shoddy reporting, plagiarism or false sourcing, it’s a good thing for journalists and the public.

    5. Collaborative investigations between pro and amateur journalists. The Internet allows ad-hoc investigations to take place between professional reporters and amateur sleuths. The Sunlight Foundation gave tools to citizen journalists so they could help find out which members of U.S. Congress were employing their spouses. The Los Angeles Times and various amateur investigators worked together to unmask the LonelyGirl15 video actress as Jessica Rose. Many more of these collaborative investigations are possible thanks to easy communication online and experiments such as NewAssignment.net.

    6. More voices are part of the news conversation. In the past, if you wanted to voice your opinion, correct a fact or do your own reporting, you had to work at a mainstream news organization. Now, thanks to the rising influence of independent bloggers and online journalists, there are more outsiders and experts exerting influence over the news agenda. Not only does that mean we have a more diverse constellation of views, but it also takes the concentrated agenda-setting power out of a few hallowed editorial boardrooms.

    7. Greater transparency and a more personal tone. Thanks to blogs and the great wide pastures of the web, reporters can go onto media websites and explain their conflicts of interest in greater detail, leading to more transparency. Plus, online writing tends to be more personal, giving reporters, editors and news anchors the chance to be more human and connect with their audience in deeper ways.

    8. Growing advertising revenues online. While old-line media people complain that online ads aren’t bringing in enough revenues to replace what’s lost in the transition from the old advertising formats, that doesn’t mean all is lost. Almost every forecast for online advertising shows double-digit percentage increases in revenues over the next five years, and it’s hard to believe none of that will trickle down to media companies. What might well happen is that media concentration will lessen, and more of the revenues will be spread out to smaller independent sites than just the big conglomerates.

    9. An online shift from print could improve our environmental impact. Very few people consider just how much our love for print newspapers and magazines harms the environment. It’s true that publishers are trying to use more recycled paper, but use of online media has a much less drastic ecological impact. Choosing online over print actually saves trees, which in turn means that media companies that transition wisely could be helping to reduce global warming. Many people expect that some type of reusable, flexible e-ink readers will eventually replace ink-on-dead-tree publications.

    10. Stories never end. Perhaps one of the weakest points about traditional journalism is that there’s rarely any follow-ups on big stories. It usually takes a professional reporter having to go back and report what’s happened since the big story. But online, stories can live on for much longer in flexible formats, allowing people to update them in comments or add more facts as they happen. Wikinews is one example of user-generated news stories that can be updated and edited by anyone.

    What do you think? What other reasons do you think journalism has a bright future ahead? Or are you a techno-pessimist who thinks none of this will presage better days for journalism? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Photo titled (appropriately) “A Path Through Darkness Often Leads to a Brighter Future” by Brian via Flickr.

    Note: MediaShift will be on summer vacation the week of July 2, and will return to normal posting again on Monday, July 9. We hope you all will enjoy some time off from your techno-toil during the holiday week.

    Tagged: digital journalist journalism lists
    • Mark, I agree with you on all 10 of these things, and I’ll throw out another one that sort of wraps around everything you’ve said:

      11. Journalists have to think innovatively. For too long, “the media” has been content to maintain profits and continue with the way things have always been. The disruptions facing big media companies has forced them to do some innovative thinking (who would have thought the NYT would have blogs, for instance? Or WaPo would be winning Emmys or Roanoke.com would be producing a daily newscast?). This is a good thing. The more people fear the changes facing the industry, the more chances there are that someone – somewhere – will hit upon something innovative that will help media operations right the ship.

      I think there is also great potential in the generation of “net natives” who are coming up into journalism who don’t have all the hang-ups about the Internet and web that their elders had. Some of them want to engage their communities.

      These are *good* things.

    • Rather idealistic I believe.Yes some good reasons to be positivesuch as greater access and participation and the opportunity for anyone to publish is a good thing.

      However there are negatives,the diluting down of the message,too much information and less opportunity to check and beleive facts.

      As for the environmental impact,saving trees but surely burning up more power as more computers and Tv’s stay on for longer

    • Thank you, Mark! We need more positive energy in the newspaper industry. I agree with all ten of your reasons to be positive (but realistic) about the future of journalism, and I agree with Bryan that journalists need to think more innovatively — of course, a lot of them are already. (See News Challenge winners, Digital Edge award winners, etc.)

    • Yes, you are correct that stories at Wikinews are less likely to die. Mainly because if someone wants to follow up there is nothing to stop them. However, we have strict policies on changes to articles that have been published for a day or so, and we protect and archive older stories.

      We’re planning on running a writing contest following the current Wikimedia Foundation Board Elections, perhaps some of your readers have an itch to be an online journalist?

      Brian.

    • Beth, I think we’re in agreement that a good number of folks are already thinking innovatively (see my comments re: NYT, WaPo, and roanoke.com). I think that was my point (I apologize for not stating that clearly), but there remains much work to be done, especially as regards small and medium-sized newspapers.

      The news challenge and digital edge winners are a small drop in the bucket of people who need to be approaching the online environment more innovatively. Of course, there are a number of great resources out there (newspapernext, harrower’s recent book, and examples aplenty) for people who want to innovate. I suppose the real need is for training and commitment.

      Like I said above, I’m optimistic, but cautious. I think young journalists should think of themselves as “brands” (to borrow a phrase from Jeff Jarvis) and think more like entrepreneurs than assembly line workers.

      I really think they’ll do so. But if media cos. want to be part of that process, more folks are going to need to innovate.

    • Oh happy day!

      Except for that tiny fly in the ointment with regard to #8.

      Large percentage rises in small numbers cannot offset small percentage drops in large numbers.

      As a parent I am often reminded that what is good for education is not always higher salaries for teachers. I guess the same goes for journalism and journalists.

    • Merrill Brown

      Mark,

      Great column. I’d add one – No more bottlenecks.

      Journalists have unprecedented opportunities to invent and distribute their work and to create new products. There’s no longer a distribution bottleneck that used to make getting creative work published or broadcast, with access limited by newsstands or TV networks to name two examples. Today good work and good ideas can reach a vast audience as they’re developed. Sure, there’s a marketing challenge with so much out there, but the opportunities to reinvent journalism in this environment are vast.

    • Great post.

      I have been focusing most of my attention on numbers four and five (having worked on NewAssignment.Net). Right now it still feels like the wild west — lots of uncharted territory and possibilities.

      But this just creates a general atmosphere of excitement. One can be a journalist and an entrepreneur (as Bryan Murley points out above).

    • As I see it there is the traditional market life cycle at work here.

      I consider that “traditional” media is part of a mature market and new media ie blogs etc as part of an emerging market.

      In mature markets you get little in the way of innovation and the control is generally in the hands of few. In the emergent market, control is in the hands of many and it’s highly innovative but it’s relative youth means that the cream has yet to rise to the top…

    • Tom McCawley

      Um, maybe good for the flow of information, but try telling your 10 reasons to the 3,000 or more journalists who lost their jobs in the US in the last few years. The number of paid, full-time professional journalists is shrinking; the conditions for those left behind are deteriorating, more work, same pay, longer hours. We might be headed into a better, Brave New World, but no one knows what it looks like yet.

      These changes are breaking the back of the guild of publishers, unions, journalists, and political and business elites, bound by a compact and understanding over what is ‘journalism.’ You can debate the merits of those changes, but for now, we’re losing a lot of skilled artisans (hacks, that is).

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I translated them into German and posted your ideas together with some comments on my website:

      http://www.streim.de/2007/07/16/goldende-zukunft/

    • Stacey

      The amount of style errors and spelling mistakes (in both this article and in the comments below) make me very worried about journalism’s future. How can we believe that stories are fact-checked when they’re obviously not even edited?

    • zorro1x

      What you’re describing is information – not necessarily journalism. Good, smart, verifiable and proveably true reporting takes hard work. Good news writing takes discipline and dedication. The future is gloomy, not bright.

    • i agree with the above 10 reasons for future of journalsim but i dont think there are more fact checkers than ever if some victims are still complaing about turning their statements in to negative fact politicians actors and musician .are the most people who hwve been faced by this situation.if something like this is still happening there is lot that need to be done in clarifying the futuer of JOURNALSIM.

    • Sandy

      Hmmm, not sure if I agree 100%. I just finished reading an interview series on the future of journalism…and its kinda depressing hearing people that are actually in the industry: http://www.ourblook.com/component/option,com_sectionex/Itemid,200076/id,8/view,category/#catid69

    • Micaela Hamilton

      I am about to do my degree in journalism, but if the internet is so easy to interact with, why do we continue to need journalists? Surely, anyone could go onto the internet, write a story about what is happening in their own situation which people would be more interested in reading about, because it is their own personal account. I am from Zimbabwe, and if there is an incident in the country, why can’t an ordinary person just write the story, journalist aren’t even allowed in the country! So, is there a bright future for journalism? I hope so, it is my future career, but as said above, now a days, a journalist has to be an entrepreneur. Yet, this way I feel the world will be losing some of the most important people in the industry. Journalists are our only means of understanding what is happening in the outside world, the problem is, people are more interested in their own countries than their surrounding ones. Journalists need to change this, and to do this, you need the ones that stand out above all others. Therefore, the average person walking the streets, surely could not grasp the attention of the reader. I hope journalists will be needed for a long time to come, no matter how they broadcast their articles.

    • sugandha

      yes i do agree to few of the points but this article is more towards the comparison between internet media and other media (print , tv etc…)

    • Sam

      I agree with most of your points. However, as sugandha states this seems to be more of a comparison between the digital media and other sources of media. What about the future of journalism on a more personal scale? How does the global future look so that journalists may start earning more or may have a more profound demand for their skills and qualifications? As a student, I am more susceptible to this revolution and more interested on what future journalists can achieve in terms of pay and environment.

    • Karen Gillum

      Another forum for discussion of this topic: Lovejoy Journalism and News Literacy Blog, http://www.colby.edu/lovejoy

    • I was read your article, and make me to know about journalism world. I think journalism need an education more then the others job or business.

    • I was read your article, and make me to know about journalism world. I think journalism need an education more then the others job or business.

    • JS

      Thank you, for this positive, uplifting list. I can’t tell you how many negative things I’ve read about the future of journalism. I’m about to graduate with a degree in journalism, and I’ve been thinking there is no hope for me as a journalist. I found this site pretty helpful too if anyone else is interested http://www.ourblook.com/index.php?topic=future_of_journalist

    • Mark

      A bit optimistic, I think. One problem with internet journalism is that — so far — there is no entity that finances in-depth investigation. Most of what passes for “journalism” on the internet is superficial commentary on information gathered by others. There is no mechanism for objective information gathering.

    • lscruz

      @stacey, who commented:

      “The amount of style errors and spelling mistakes (in both this article and in the comments below) make me very worried about journalism’s future. How can we believe that stories are fact-checked when they’re obviously not even edited?”

      Mistakes do happen. Perfect example, your subject-verb disagreement (“amount” and “make”). I know that is nit-picky, but there’s really no point in letting contradictory statements go unmentioned.

    • RickN

      Re lscruz on @stacy:

      And shouldn’t it be “number of style errors…”? (Countable, not measurable.)

      Just sayin’……… (Maybe I can be an editor when I grow up.)

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