With digital technologies advancing rapidly, what has the effect been on conventional journalists? How is journalism adapting to new media forms?

Image by geralt via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

Web 2.0 applications continue to grow every minute with a focus on interactivity and speedy dissemination of information. With the adoption of internet resources in newsrooms across the globe, it has become increasingly necessary for today’s journalists to keep abreast of news in the digital world and gain seamless access to it.

Millenials in particular, are the ones to adopt the usage of the Internet the fastest, having grown in a socially networked world.

According to a survey conducted in early 2016 by Pew Research Center, most Americans watch the news on television. However, as can be seen in the chart above, most millenials – age groups 18 to 29 and 30 to 49 – get news online, either from social media or apps and websites.

Today, it is imperative for brands to have a presence on the Internet. With several thousand gigabytes of data generated online every minute, it has created the need for digital journalists and social media reporters.

While digital journalists are those who are capable of reporting a story cross-platform with a focus on digital media, social media reporters are those who source news from social media websites and apps such as Twitter, Reddit or Youtube.

Digital Journalism

There is considerable demand in contemporary newsrooms for journalists with good digital and social media skills.

With startups proliferating in hubs across the world, Big Data amongst other technology innovations have created opportunities for data mining, analytics, machine learning and data science. This is turn has created a new genre of journalism – ‘Data Journalism’ – which is primarily digital-based.

To report and write in-dept news stories and gain insights on advances in the technology world, journalists must have digital media skills to enable them to sort through numerical data on a large scale.

New software, web applications as well as social media will continue being developed. It is essential that journalists are adept at using basic electronic equipment to source for information on the Internet and are capable of reporting their story across platforms.

Over the last few years, Snapchat has risen in popularity and number of users. Several news brands are now devising ways in which to tap into the Snapchat community to discover or disseminate news.

A short Snapstory by VICE News on Snapchat. Screenshot by Mitsu Fonseca.

Instant videos filmed on mobile devices and uploaded immediately onto the Internet has become the norm today. In fact, Periscope let’s one broadcast a LIVE event for anyone with an internet connection to view. Newsrooms are realising that it isn’t possible to send across a photo or video journalist immediately to where an event may have occurred, because of time constraints and the costs involved.

On the Internet however, information can be sourced at a lesser cost and in less time. However, the online world contains a lot of noise, so today’s journalists need to be skilled at separating what’s important, and verifying images, video or information using web tools such as TinEye, or proceeding with a detailed research to find the original uploader of a video to know of its authenticity.

Rapid sharing of information on the web makes it susceptible to the spread of fake news. It is thus, a journalist’s duty to fact-check and verify all information before reporting it to the public. To do this, a journalist must be able to browse websites and social media, and apply advanced search techniques.

One journalist, many roles

Universities and colleges have realised the importance of digital media skills for journalists and are increasingly developing their curriculum to suit the needs of the modern journalist. Many have partnered with online learning platforms such as Coursera to impart these digital skills to aspiring or seasoned journalists in the comfort of their homes or offices.

With most content going online, it is easier for freelance journalists to work and publish their stories from wherever they are. It is important for journalists to acquire basic coding skills to write, structure and publish articles on websites or their own blogs, to create appealing graphics that tell the story more efficiently, and to edit videos that can reach a wider audience on the Internet.

Journalists today must acquire skills of a graphic designer, a video editor, and also an analyst, besides honing engaging reporting and storytelling skills in order to thrive in a digitised world. Using basic camera apps and clicking good images is another essential skill.

With a great deal of information available online, digital journalists must create content that can catch the viewers eye instantly, otherwise, they’ll move on to something else. Clicks and page views are important to website owners on the Internet, especially with growing advertising revenue for the online media.

What draws users to a website is the interest they have for a particular style of news reporting, or a particular genre, or if it had gone viral and they had to view it too.

Internet resources and a digital frontrunner

Internet giant Google owned by the parent company Alphabetbegan the Google News Lab to train and partner with journalists and encourage the usage of the company’s tools and web resources for reporting. The platform makes it easier to follow trends and use data visualisation techniques to make reporting for the web of higher quality.

Create your own intensity map with Google Fusion tables: https://t.co/qWlpsFOBiN pic.twitter.com/lZhMajNb7f

There are several other tools available on the Internet for journalists to use freely to their advantage. StoryMap is one such tool that makes it possible to create interactive mapped journeys.

Take a look at how VICE Media began it’s digital expansion below.

VICE News – a brand of VICE Media has effectively cracked the code to amass millions of followers using digital media. Their reporting is immersive. They use a variety of social media and platforms to tell stories that the public are interested in. They practice fast journalism in a digital age targeted at millenials and are growing in several continents.

All their journalists promote their work on social media and the quality of the reporting is what has garnered them a huge number of subscribers.

While they are also tapping into the US’s large number of television news watchers with their programs and documentaries on HBO, they continue to push the envelope when it comes to using the Internet and digital media to propagate their reports.

Change is the only way forward

It is important that a journalist develops a mindset to accept change and constant innovation. Technology will only get better from here on. There will be additions to what’s currently available, and journalism is certainly going digital.

It cannot be denied that journalists must adapt and acquire new digital skills, while keeping ethics and fact-checking intact.

Here’s an informative podcast on embracing change and acquiring digital skills as journalists. Listen in.


Featured image by geralt via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain