It’s not just what you print that makes you an authoritative and trusted source for news, but what you don’t print.
One of the fun things about journalism (to me) is the opportunity of find out more about why or how something happens. While Google has been performing this function well most of the time, I often enjoy reading a good, well-written and well-edited backgrounder on an issue that is currently in the news.
The BBC News’ “Who, What, Why” is one such series. After rebels seized the city of Timbuktu in Mali, this article “Who, What, Why: Why do we know Timbuktu?” served as a good backgrounder on how the place Timbuktu came to represent a place far, far away in the English language.
Then there was a story about a cat that survived a 19-floor fall in the US. The question became: “Who, What, Why: How do cats survive falls from great heights?”. Some people might say such a topic is frivolous, but I say, never stop asking questions!
Commonsense advice, but good nonetheless, and applicable across all industries, not just the media.
There’s an awful lot written about how to apply for journalism jobs - but most of it comes from the applicants’ perspective. Instead, today we have a piece from a senior B2B editor on their recent recruitment process, and why most of the applications that came in were lacklustre at best.”
The best par is probably right at the end:
“After all, being a reporter is about being able to get a foot through the door, make an impression, collect information and present it to a reader in a concise, distinctive way. A job application is a chance to show an employer that you have these skills by telling a compelling story about yourself. Why miss it?”
Read more here.
Nobody will pick them from the doormat wondering how the world has changed from the day before. They will be badges, evidence of their readers’ cultural or political tastes, with an artisanal-cheese kind of price that turns them from a habit into a hobby.
This quote, by veteran British newspaper man Ian Jack, is, of course, about newspapers. Much has been written about the possible demise of the print medium, which has been the source of some of the best journalism in the history of the news industry.
Jack’s op-ed in The Guardian is worth a read. It’s well-written and honest, and reflects on some of the strengths of newspapers - which will be lost if and when they die.
He brings up some good points, for example about distribution:
“If one big publisher, say News International, withdrew from the pooled distribution arrangements then the increased cost for the rest could be fatal.”
And also about the possible demise of serious, especially investigative, journalism:
“Serious reporting could be the most serious casualty, because it’s expensive and present estimates of digital income won’t cover the costs of foreign correspondents and a well-staffed newsroom; philanthropic owners or a drastic reconfiguring of editorial budgets will certainly be required.”
This five-point list by The Washington Post is an excellent wrap of the problems journalism is facing or is not facing.
1. The traditional news media are losing their audience.
2. Online news will be fine as soon as the advertising revenue catches up.
3. Content will always be king.
4. Newspapers around the world are on the decline.
5. The solution is to focus on local news.
I certainly have seen No.4 in my travels around developing countries. It’s exciting to see whole new sections of society gain access to media as education becomes more accessible and literary rates rise.
If you want to employ a proper journalist rather than a cheap web monkey, the SEO stuff really is secondary.
Now, I know talk about the divide between print and online/digital journalists has been discussed over and over again since … well … since the internet came about. So it’s been quite a few years. Yet comments like the above are still held in newsrooms today.
Kevin Anderson (who I was very fortunate to meet at Digital Directions this year) has written on this particular issue in his latest blog post — and he has one piece of advice for digital journalists subject to such treatment in the newsroom:
If you’re in a poisonous work environment like this, constantly having to defend your work, just leave. It’s a judgement call, and every place has its politics, but if you’re sidelined, marginalised and disrespected, you owe it yourself and to journalism to take your skills where they’ll be put to good use.
As Riyaad Minty, Al Jazeera’s head of social media, said at Digital Directions, there is no old or new media, just media. He was, of course, talking about Al Jazeera’s coverage of the ongoing protests in the Middle East and North Africa, and how the photos, videos and informations shared by protesters in these countries played a central role in helping to tell the story about what was happening on the ground.
As a side note, I’m not sure why some journalists are so exclusionary about their industry, as Adam Tinworth (whom Anderson cites) notes, but I would argue that they should be more inclusive instead. In the past week, the media has been scrambling to understand how a nuclear power plant works, and then explain the risks of a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi facility. Such coverage would have been severely handicapped without the fantastic graphics/interactives/multimedia put together for online, print and broadcast illustrating the design of the reactors.
So is it fair to say that journalists = only reporters? Photographers, editors, sub-editors, copy editors, layout subs, designers, producers etc — they all work in, and for, the newsroom. Their work helps a news organisation tell a story well. So why exclude them?
As I see it, it’s wrong to write about people without living through at least a little of what they are living through.