The future of journalism


I had the opportunity to meet with two aspiring journalists this week. Both are sophomores here at San Diego State and both have a passion for journalism and a refreshing drive that we often don’t associate with the “millenial” generation.

After discussing their futures, their career paths and ways to get where they want to go, I watched this clip of Arriana Huffington, on MSNBC, discussing the future of journalism with some seasoned media folks. In the interview, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan is skeptical (to put it mildly) of the ability of small, local publications to do real meaningful journalism. Huffington cites San Diego’s own Voice of San Diego as an excellent example of real, important, investigative journalism happening on a small budget. Without having ever seen the web site, Noonan scoffs at the notion.

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That to me is frightening and is what is driving the demise of the newspaper industry as we know it. Major publications unwilling to see that there are other, newer ways to do things. Huffington is spot on. Our society needs real, ethical, trained journalists, now more than ever, to be the eyes and ears of society. But they don’t need to work at the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

This week we received the very sad news that the San Diego Union-Tribune had laid off 192 people, many of whom worked in the newsroom. So where do these veteran journalists go? Some will call it a career. But Voice of San Diego and others, like the new San Diego News Network, will end up employing some of them. And so they will continue to do that important work, just not in print.

And so I think about how scary it must be to be a journalism student right now, wondering what you are going to do after you graduate. My personal belief is that there are actually more opportunities now than ever before. The digital world we live in provides opportunities to break in, doing real, meaningful work, without having to cut your teeth and the Pokipsi Gazette. The Huffington Post utilizes Citizen Journalists better than most. And the two students I met with both are affiliate reporters for Palestra.net. From Ground Report and CNN’s I Report, there are many other examples of ways journalists can continue to tell their stories.

So when I spoke to those two students, I encouraged them to keep working with the journalism department here and keep diversifying their skill sets by writing for The Daily Aztec, shooting video, doing radio at KCR, networking and more.

I heard a great quote from Steve Rubel, the digital mastermind at Edelman PR: A journalism professor was asked what he’s going to teach his students now that newspapers are dying. He responded that it’s like asking a math teacher what he’s gonig to teach now that there are calculators.

1 Comment

Filed under College Community, New Media, University News

One response to “The future of journalism

  1. I think encouraging students to diversify — to learn how to communicate effectively and simply through text, photos, video and audio — is an excellent start.

    As an addition, I think a basic “start a business” course, or even a short seminar, would be invaluable. How to incorporate, how to get a taxpayer ID #, understanding employer law so you can hire and pay people, writing an invoice, billing, the basics of bookkeeping, how to pay taxes.

    Then, a basic website from the ground up tutorial: Get an inexpensive hosting account (someplace like MediaTemple), install Apache, install MySQL, install WordPress; buy a domain name, set up the DNS records so that the domain points at your new website; set up MX records or Google Apps so that youremail@domain.com works. Set up a Google Adsense account and get ads working on the site.

    Incorporating costs a couple hundred bucks (more depending on how you do it), a basic hosting account can be had for under $40 a month. The software mentioned above is free. So the initial investment in creating a small business whose job is to operate a fledgling community news organization can be as low as $300. (Less if you don’t incorporate, but that’s not a great idea).

    If you have the basic “start a business” and “start a website” then nothing can actually STOP you from doing journalism. You’ve got the basics of self-sufficiency. Now, self-sufficiency does not equal success — monetary success, popularity, or impact. But you can’t start working on achieving success unless you’ve already achieved self-sufficiency.

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