Deconstructing the Brave New World of Journalism

I experienced a whirlwind of activity around social media, journalism and work life balance last week. Every door of my career as a hybrid journalist (providing content across many mediums) was knocking.

Separating the wheat from the chaff was a chaotic, but creative dance. From participating on a panel on the Brave New World of Journalism and Media, to my own contemplative journey as a journalist, I came to one conclusion – journalism is evolving at the speed of light and we either adapt to change in every moment – or we perish.

It’s a Brave New World Thanks to the Internet

Last week I sat on a panel discussion on The Brave New World of Journalism and Media at CUNY for the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Among the panelists; Professor Leonard Witt of Kennesaw State University, Rene Ebersol of Audubon Magazine, Media consultant Brian Reich, Nick Penniman of the Huffington Post and author Christine Henrichs. We debated the direction of  journalism 2.o. Here’s the end story in a few points:

  • The internet has clearly changed the business model of news distribution – but some fear it will change the quality of journalism.
  • Will the general public be willing to pay for quality journalism? No answer to this one yet. But there is a thirst for good investigative journalism.
  • How does one define good journalism? Kind of subjective.
  • The rise of the citizen journalist. The jury is out on the impact of this phenomenon. 
  • For laid off journalists, freelancing is the best option and work life balance might be compromised unless you’ve got great time management skills.
  • The line between citizen journalism and professional journalism is blurred, as is the line between journalist and expert.

For two hours we toyed with new business models and the outmoded ones. We tinkered with how we were going to survive in the Internet age. There was talk on where we came from, where we’re going, and in fact if there will be a financially sustainable place to rest our hats. Who will govern good journalism and who will pay for it?

It was a nostalgic and contemplative night for me. Which had me talking about my evolution in news as I was reminded of a story from long ago.

Before the Brave New World of Journalism, there was Watergate

My interest in journalism was sparked with the traditional newspaper, (still fond of the paper version of the Sunday New York Times). My journey and development as a reporter subsequently included rip and read wire copy when I started in television (pre-computer era.) But even before I hit the newsroom, a life changing evening influenced my interest in news, right out of the gate, if you will.

I remember like it was yesterday, really. My mother was yelling from the bottom of the stairs, “Girls, come down, history is being made on TV.”  I wasn’t even ten years old, but I raced down the winding stairs to the den with my little sister in tow, in our pajamas. And then it happened. The words were spoken. On a black and white television, my family watched and listened.

“I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow,” said then President Richard Nixon. We had studied what was happening to our nation in social studies. I understood, even as a child, that two newspaper journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had in essence, taken down an administration. It was their tireless 24/7 reporting which flew in the face of any type of work life balance, that changed history. 

That slice of the past, and subsequently the work of Barbara Walters and many Sunday’s watching Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes on CBS in my footie pajamas, formed the foundation of my journalistic instincts and thirst for a good story. Fast forward a few decades and mediums later, and it’s abundantly clear that journalism, let alone broadcast journalism, has transformed into a new animal. I wonder how the Internet or even cable might have influenced – or not – Woodward’s and Bernstein’s approach. What if Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz was around back then?

Has Journalism really changed or are we just witnessing the evolution of distribution toward an unknown end? From just a hand full of newspaper conglomerates competing for advertising dollars, to on-line media stretching their content for eyeballs, in the 11th hour we’re scrambling to erect a new business model for news within the playground of the few which have survived. Maybe we need to make some sort of evolutionary leap into a brand new model.

What will this brave new world look like for news and journalism in general, and again, who’s going to pay for it?  Tomorrow, I’ll share my work life tips on surviving as a journalist in the brave new world.