Ohio Journalist

Our Media

By Kate Irby

(June 11, 2011) — People are spending more time catching up on news than ever before, according to Pew Center Research Center survey data. But the platforms are changing drastically. In 2010, every news platform except digital suffered a loss in audience, while digital experienced a 17.1 percent audience growth.

It’s no secret that digital media have been undergoing rapid developments. The convenience of finding news online and the ability to interact with the news draw in the public. But what does this mean for journalists, especially those who dream of jobs in print journalism?

Garrett Downing, graduate from 2010 and a web producer at the ABC affiliate in Cleveland, WEWS, said the future does not look bright for print. “To be honest, I don’t think there’s going to be anything other than online journalism. At some point, everything will be online.”

Eric Hornbeck, graduate from 2008 and reporter for Law360, also emphasized the importance of digital media in the future. “I feel like if it’s only a (print) magazine, it’s probably not going to last. Like the New Yorker has an iPad app and has all kinds of stuff on their website. I don’t know of any magazine that doesn’t promote across different platforms.”

These days, any publication that doesn’t have some kind of digital platform is left in the dust. Journalists must understand social media, search engine optimization (SEO) and web design to get ahead.

Ellie Behling, graduate from 2007 and a Senior Writer at eMedia Vitals, said being a good writer isn’t enough anymore; journalists have to understand aspects of digital media. “We need to understand more than just writing huge quotes and prize-winning features.”

Any company or publication that doesn’t understand these will be left behind. Few to no publications in current times are only available in print without an accompanying website. More forward-thinking publications have developed applications for the iPad and other mobile devices in addition to websites. Most publications take advantage of social media like Facebook and Twitter to promote their site and generate more traffic.

Embracing this knowledge has become priceless in all areas of journalism, according to Behling. “As long as you understand the web… NBC, NPR, or a web startup, or Time Magazine “they’re all going to be interested in you.”

SEO has become a common term in the digital world, pressuring journalists to find creative ways to push their stories to the top of search engines like Google and Bing.

Downing cited a specific example where the implications of social media are obvious. “I’ve seen a couple polls concerning the Osama bin Laden story, and a large portion of people found out about the news on Twitter before the president even said it.”

Behling, who graduated under the magazine sequence, now writes in what she describes as blog-style for her all-online publication. The content focuses on the media and technology industry, giving advice to print companies that are transitioning their business to digital, making her a definite advocate of online journalism.

“I knew in college that I loved digital journalism, and that it was the future,” she said.

With so many new developments in the journalism world, the future remains a little unclear. Journalists wonder what other new technologies will develop in the years to come.

“My bosses might say ‘what’s your dream job?’” Behling said. “And I always say I don’t have one, because I don’t know what the world is going to look like.”

“I’m not even a year out, but I wouldn’t say I have a dream job because the jobs are changing so much,” Downing agreed.

Hornbeck pointed out that even though the jobs are changing, the basic reporting skills remain the same. “I don’t feel like the nature of my work in online is different from in print.”

With online journalism comes many concerns, especially that of journalists getting paid for their work. The public isn’t willing to pay subscriptions for content they can easily access for free online. Some journalists are having issues coming to terms with this. Downing, however, takes a more optimistic attitude.

“I could sit and complain about how the revenue model is broken, I wish there was still subscriptions, or I wish it was still the golden age of television when there were sports and nothing else,” Downing said. “Or I could look at it as saying there are opportunities that have been created and developed in the past three, four or one year — whatever the timeline is — that didn’t exist because of the opportunities online. I think it’s all evolved, and to me that’s exciting rather than discouraging.”

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