Out With the Old, In With the New

The old-model of journalism and its supporters are starting to look a lot like Chicken Little crying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” But, the ‘sky’ is not falling, it is transforming.

In the United States, there is one thing that is certain in the world of journalism – there will be fewer professional journalists working in fewer outlets with fewer resources for reporting. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism 2010 State of the News Media report: “We estimate that the newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000, or roughly 30 percent. That leaves an estimated $4.4 billion remaining. Even if the economy improves we predict more cuts in 2010.”

Although newspapers are hurting the worst, there is no good news from any types of news outlet. Both revenue and viewership are way down. The Pew State of the Media Report revealed some interesting, yet scary, statistics. Local television ad revenue fell 24 percent in 2009, radio was down 18 percent, magazine ad pages dropped 19 percent, and network television down 7 percent. Unfortunately, things may only get worse.

It is no secret that journalists are getting hit hard. According to a report by UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc., there was a 22 percent increase in the journalism jobs lost from September 2008 through August 2009, compared with a general job loss rate of 8 percent.

So, what does a journalist do in the face of catastrophe? It’s simple – start looking outside the box.

Recently, there have been many groups experimenting with ways to organize and support journalists. Some of these experiments include grant-funded news operations such as Pro Publica, citizen journalism collaborations with professional newsrooms, and other various web projects.

In the rapidly changing world of online media development and technology, journalism is perfectly positioned to use such tools to their advantage. By embracing technology, journalism can stop dwelling on the past and build a newer, more sustainable model for connecting with audiences. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.

In an interview with the Pew Project For Excellence In Journalism, Larry Jinks, former editor and publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, gives aspiring journalists some hope – “I think the answer may come from places staffed by young people who understand the new technology and its potential and who have a passion for journalism.”

As a young aspiring journalist, I’ll take Larry’s word for it.

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