My take on the TOW Center’s 2012 report.
Gone are the days of sock-hops and soda parlors as we swing full force into the 21st century. Technology is omnipotent, information travel occurs in an instant, and the world of journalism is forever evolving.
In the report, “Post Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present” the TOW Center for Digital Journalism explored the ever changing world of Journalism in terms of its practice and consumption. The report’s Conclusion attempted to time travel with its readers into the year 2020 and give a view of what changes journalism is expected to undergo.
The first point the report emphasized illustrates that, “No one could reserve the right to postpone implementation of the future (p. 105).” You cannot simply opt out of the incoming changes or you will be forgotten in the storm newspapers, broadcasts, and blogs. Journalism is all about staying current so being behind on the times is no way to assure you make a name for yourself.
With that being said, it is important to make sure that you yourself evolve WITH the world around you. Think like this: if a reporter reigning from the era of the civil rights movement were to jump forward in time to now then the issues they were reporting about would no longer be relevant. In fact, some readers could even be offended by terms they use and things they would say.
“As George W.S. Trow put it in “Within the Context of No Context,” his wonderful and strange musing on the changed social landscape in the United States:
‘Everyone knows, or ought to know, that there has happened under us a Tectonic Plate Shift […] the political parties still have the same names; we still have a CBS, an NBC, and a New York Times; but we are not the same nation that had those things before.’”
While some avenues of news-gathering and reporting do remain the same, it is essential to change with the nation.
This brings us to the importance of niche journalism. The TOW center predicts that by 2020 the news ecosystem will have heightened contrasts between the extremes. People will turn to specific sources for specific news, rather than one motherboard for all of their news.
The emergence of niche or beat journalism will occur. Journalists will be encouraged to create their own niche that they solely will be the experts on. We can make the tectonic shift work for us by creating a journalistic niche that is completely our own. Find your thing and stick with it.
A prime example of this is CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller. Knoller documents every aspect of the presidency and in doing so has created a report of the presidency that is all his own. No one can take that away from him.
According to TOW, “By 2020, the most expert data miner, information visualizer or interactive experience designer will have a far more refined set of tools and experience than any of those people do today.”
It will become essential for journalists to know themselves and be able to pinpoint their own strengths and weaknesses. When you find those strengths run with them and make sure you are doing everything you can to stay current.