Ever since I entered the journalism school my freshman year, my professors have been telling me how the journalism world is changing and converging, blurring the lines between reporter responsibilities. The MMIAA’s “Future of Journalism” workshop Sunday not only reiterated this fact, but gave students a valuable opportunity to hear directly from professionals in the field about how their organizations are dealing with these changes.
The most important thing I took away from the workshop was the need for reporters to have multi-platform skills. One of the speakers stressed that if we go into the field with the mindset of only being a newspaper reporter, we would be left behind very quickly. In addition to the staple of writing skills, today’s reporter should be able to shoot basic video and audio and upload it into a Web package. The panelists also talked about the value of blogging, and how a reporter needs to be able to write conversationally for a blog while still maintaining their objectivity.
Hearing from Jim Brady was especially informative, as he discussed some of the behind-the-scenes thinking that goes into maintaining a major news website. Since washingtonpost.com is my primary news Web site, it was interesting to hear about how the editors and reporters use the site to enhance their stories through slide shows, video, reader comments and reporters’ blogs. Increasingly, the washingtonpost.com is looking to include searchable database information on its site. Brady also talked about how data like the number of page views a story gets and the demographics of the readers help the editors tailor the site to the readers in a way that the print paper cannot. However, Brady warned against putting too much emphasis on the numbers, saying that journalistic values always come first.
I asked Brady a question about the Washington Post's foray into radio and how that is representative of journalism's changes. Brady emphasized that while the venture ultimately failed, he has no regrets that the Post attempted it. Despite many media organizations' desire to do the safe thing, Brady said it is important to take risks, for that is the only way media is going to survive this changing time. I believe this was one of the most valuable pieces of advice from the workshop. As budding reporters, we have to be thinking outside the box and not be afraid to follow through on those ideas.
While walking out of the workshop with a free pen and notepad certainly made the event worthwhile, I more importantly walked out with thoughts and advice that will help me make the most of my remaining time at Maryland. I am now thoroughly convinced that the skills I learn in journalism classes such as this online class will do wonders for me when I enter this dynamic wold of journalism in only a few short years.