The Digital Media Pyramid

Remember that inverted period that was pounded into our heads during our first journalism class? Well, get ready because this is the new and improved version.

The Digital Media Pyramid, coined by Benjamin Davis from the Online Journalism Review, takes the traditional pyramid and reworks it for today’s journalists. Journalists who write a television, radio, or print story are often required to re-write and re-work their story for the Web. This pyramid helps them do so.

Photo Credit: Online Journalism Review

Keep in mind that the Digital Media is not a substitute for the inverted pyramid. Instead, it simply enhances it. Young journalists and students, who are already digitally minded, are well-prepared to gasp this concept. At the top of the pyramid is a traditional brief introduction of facts (otherwise known as the five W’s – who, what, where, when and why). These facts are very important, and separated from supporting details.

The Digital Media Pyramid also addresses finding supporting information online, and explains rules such as cut-and-pasting. The Digital Media Pyramid tries to bring home the importance of respecting copyrighted material and original works by teaching proper attribution and giving credit where credit is due.

The pyramid also explains the proper use of photographs, video, and other digital media sources. The pyramid also draws a journalist’s attention to ads. Journalists must be wary of advertisements on the Internet, since new software has the ability to automatically place relevant ads next to a news story. This can easily be mistaken as bias. Writers must strive to still maintain objectivity.

Finally, the “Digital Media Pyramid” encourages what is known as ” self-education of  users.” This is when readers are able to quickly seek out balanced information on a news story through the use of embedded links, social networks, and other sources.

In theory, the pyramid is good, but how is it in practice? According to the OJR, “journalism students who have been taught the Digital Media Pyramid for the past seven years at Rutgers University have enthusiastically welcomed the change in how they are to prepare and present their news stories.”

As a journalism student, I would love to see one of my professors use the Digital Media Pyramid in one of my classes. The inverted pyramid is a great building block, but an updated version will help journalists cope with the demands of the fast-moving digital world. Finding a balance between journalism and new technology is not an easy feat, but techniques like the Digital Media Pyramid can help us all adapt together.

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