The Plight of the Journalist

There are two definitive pieces of information on the current state of journalism. The first is print news will die. It is only a matter of time. The second is there is a thriving place for digital news. In “Last Call: The End of the Printed Newspaper,” author Clay Shirky plainly stated “the future of the daily newspaper is one of the few certainties in the current landscape”. The data is evidence for journalists at print publications that their jobs are in danger. In Frank Rose’s Wired article “How the Smartphone Ushered In a Golden Age of Journalism” he argued that journalism is still “holding its own” on the internet with publications like The Atlantic reporting data that captivated an audience of a million viewers for an average of 25 minutes.

What does this mean for journalists? If there is diminishing job security at newspapers, yet there is still opportunity for internet-based news, especially long-form pieces, the answer is simple for journalists. Shirky’s three suggestions for journalists are sound. First, get really good at understanding data and numbers. Second, use social media to find stories and sources. Finally the third is collaborate with others using new tools and techniques.

Journalists are skilled writers and storytellers, but they are also historians. The business of recording history from city council meetings to the breaking story of the year is what Shirky in his 2009 “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” said is “society’s heavy journalistic lifting”. The loss of these stories referenced by many people outside the journalism world, will be a loss in society. It will be a change in how we ultimately write our own history.

The challenge for journalists is indeed to secure work in the changing economics of news as Andrew Leonard referenced in a recent Salon.com article. Hopefully innovators and wealthy businessmen like Jeff Bezos and Pierre Omidyar and perhaps young innovators will be part of the revolution. Otherwise Shirky put the resulting impact to society best calling the loss of journalistic talent “catastrophic”. The outcome of which has not yet been written.