The days of journalists writing for print or broadcast exclusively are long gone. With convergence journalism, journalists are required to produce news for multiple platforms, including new media. Earlier this year, our College’s School of Journalism and Communication Studies hosted a symposium in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day and we invited Alison Bethel-McKenzie, the former executive director of the International Press Institute to be our feature speaker. In conversations with the faculty and school’s administration, she shared that if she were still in the
newsroom and was required to produce news for various platforms by employing multiple tools, she would struggle.
Nonetheless, the fundamental role of the journalist has not changed. According to the Society for Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, the task of the journalist is to “seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable and transparent” (2014). Journalist Kathy Cowan notes that “The role of telling stories remains the same. Journalism is still about observing, interpreting and informing” (2012). However, these tasks have changed with new technology.
“Emily Bell, director of the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and former editor of Guardian.co.uk” credits the coverage of 911 as the catalyst that changed how news is reported. “Linear TV was not enough”, people went online to share what they knew on message boards and chat forums (Krotoski, 2011). Today, “Journalists are now increasingly involved with their audience. The web and its less passive nature has meant that journalists now have to engage with their readers, and they have to listen” (Cowan, 2012).
In addition, the media audience demands fast and immediate news, so journalists often rely on new technology such as Facebook and Twitter to gather information from members of the public who willingly share their experiences with others. These firsthand witness accounts “offer analytical perspectives from the ground faster than print or television can provide” (Krotoski, 2011).
Extensive contacts and sources are key to credible story telling. Consequently, journalists must have sufficient contacts to keep them informed. In this regard, “Social media broadens the average journalist’s pool of contacts and connections, putting them in touch with people and organisations they might never have known about through traditional research sources” (DiGiorgio, 2010).
Equipped with a smart phone, a journalist can produce a news story. A journalist can take a picture, record video and audio clips, facilitate live remote reporting via Skype, write a story and meet the newsroom’s deadline all with a smart phone . Therefore, she is always prepared to capture a story as it happens (Belmaker, 2014).
New technology has made the journalist’s job easier in some regards due to the ready source of information and contacts, and the versatility of the smart phone. However, the veracity of what is on social media needs to be established and journalists should still verify the credibility of their sources.
Belmaker, G. (2014, November 25). 5 ways journalists can use smart phones for reporting. Retrieved from http://www.poynter.org/news/media-innovation/200418/5-ways-journalists-can-use-smartphone-apps-for-reporting/
Cowan, K. (2012, August 13). How has the digital era changed journalism? Retrieved from https://www.boomerangpr.com/blog/how-has-the-digital-era-changed-journalism/
DiGiorgio, G. (2010, November 18). Social media: a journalist’s friend or foe? Retrieved from http://www.upstart.net.au/2010/11/18/social-media-a-journalists-friend-or-foe/
Krotoski, J. (2011 February 20). What effects has the internet had on journalism? Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/feb/20/what-effect-internet-on-journalism
Society for Professional Journalists. (2014, September 6) SPJ Code of Ethics, retrieved from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp