Today I taught my last class of the term, and, as is my custom, I invited questions on anything having to do with journalism.
One caught me flat-footed.
“If you were a student now, would you go into journalism?”
I stared at the floor, looked up and smiled. “I’m not sure what it means to ‘go into journalism’ anymore. It’s not clear what journalism is becoming.”
Nor is it clear what it means to inform, or be informed, at least through journalism.
As a member of the pre-Internet generation, I have some idea of what it once meant. It seems like only yesterday that it had to do with newspapers and magazines and reading. I left it to editors to direct my attention to what was important, and each day I would sidle up to the journalism trough and partake of the news.
Today I don’t see all that much sidling or partaking. In an age of Twitter, blogs and Facebook, I’m not sure whether there is even a particular hunger for the news, at least the news as I understand it.
Gossip, trivia and opinion, yes; but not the news.
What constitutes journalism today? For a few more months, before newspapers vanish entirely, it may still be defined by “the Press” and its editors.
Like so many others, I believe a new, sustainable journalism model has yet to emerge, and it probably won’t until we are faced with the utter absence of newspapers. At that point, someone, some organization, some foundation or some cooperative will see the need for reliable sources of information on-line. The skills of newspaper reporting will be handed down to on-line journalists.
Alas, how they will be paid remains a mystery.
So, after a false start or two, I told my inquiring student that future journalists must be fully immersed in the changes taking place in communication. They must be flexible and prepared for the next Internet. If journalists are messengers and the medium is the message, then we must be masters of media and not let media master us.
Personally, I’ve had it easy because I am ending my journalism career at the end of a long, stable journalism era. The next generation of journalists will live through many eras thanks to changing technology. That’s a given. And each succeeding era will be shorter.
So the journalist embarking on a career today has a much more complex task than learning how to report and write. The job is more challenging, risky and exciting.
I saw the student who asked the question later in the day and asked him what he plans to do now that he has taken my journalism class.
“I’m thinking of teaching,” he said.
Labels: future of journalism, internet, journalism, teaching