By Bridgette Outten Springfield News-Sun Reporter @bridgetteo (Twitter)
When I graduated from college, Facebook was just becoming popular. A tweet was a sound a bird made. My online journalism courses were charting the still-murky waters of cyber-journalism, though my professors proclaimed Internet media was the future.
They were right and the future wasn’t far off. Fast forward four years: my colleague finds out via Facebook that a former high school athlete died during surgery; I follow the Tweets of my sources to see who is going to announce a run for office (among other things) and any news media outlet without a Website is unheard of.
The basics of journalism remain the same: tell a good, thorough story. But the way we tell the story and how we gather information has gone viral. It is vital that journalists change with the times and help develop new techniques to make our work appeal to all audiences, whether they are surfing the Web, watching TV, listening to the radio or reading a newspaper.
I’ve always had a love for print journalism, having a fondness for the written word and how it could paint a picture even when it had no picture at all. However, within the last two years, I’ve had to approach my stories not just with the eye of a journalist, but with the senses of a photographer as well. Suddenly I had to consider the sounds of a story, too because my colleagues and I were assigned to shoot, edit and post short videos related to our stories to post on the Web.
Also, more often than not, I’m writing two or three versions of a story because we do Web updates on a story throughout the day as we get more information. The final version goes to print for the next day’s paper, but the instant sharing of information has really shortened deadlines. The idea of a newspaper producing content that would never, could never, see newsprint was mind-boggling at first, but now, it’s just normal.
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Social media has become essential. Many people, especially younger people, get their news from Twitter (founded in 2006). The trending topics let us know what people are taking about and sometimes those topics make their way in our own newsrooms, something we can localize for our area audiences. Logging on Facebook (founded in 2004) to find information about someone or grab a mugshot is done regularly and people, everyday people, are now stewards of their own information. More people are promoting themselves, writing stories (blogs) about themselves, posting their own broadcasts, as with popular YouTube (founded in 2005).
Still, journalists are needed for their expertise in verification, accuracy and organizing of information, especially now that we have such a wealth of information at our fingertips and not all of it is true. The role has shifted, but is no less important. The way to stay relevant in journalism: step out of your comfort zone. If you’re print, go shoot a video. If you’re broadcast, write a hard news story. If you’re a blogger, design a newsletter for print. Find six or seven different ways to tell a story through multimedia and make all of them excellent.
We still use these tools — these ever-evolving, wonderful, slightly intimidating, fascinating tools — to tell a good story.