10 changes in journalists role (and 5 things that remain the same)

(Versão portuguesa aqui)

um-jornalista-e-um-djJournalism is changing: technologically, commercially, in the media, in the formats, in business models. So it is quite natural that the very role of journalists must be renewed and adapted to the unavoidable reality.

But first, we must understand what a journalist is and does:

Journalism is the profession of writing or communicating, formally employed by publications and broadcasters, for the benefit of a particular community of people. The writer or journalist is expected to use facts to describe events, ideas, or issues that are relevant to the public. Journalists (also known as news analysts, reporters, and correspondents) gather information, and broadcast it so we remain informed about local, state, national, and international events. They can also present their points of view on current issues and report on the actions of the government, public officials, corporate executives, interest groups, media houses, and those who hold social power or authority.

Wikipedia(english version)

Now that we cleared things up, we can enumerate the new changes demanded by the job:

1- A journalist must know how to work for different media.  He must be multi-skilled and master different languages.

It’ a matter of professional survival. If being an expert in a medium is an added value, it is also essencial that we can adapt to others, just in case we’re caught up in a company restructuring. Besides, that multitasking is very useful in this age of media convergence: a journalist with good radio skills can take the production of his newspapers podcast, or use his photographic qualities to illustrate the news in his station’s website.

2-A journalist is his own editor.

Calm down, i’m not promoting the newsroom anarchy. But editorial independence is needed in these times where the news is published immediately, as breaking news or via Twitter, calling for a faster response time.  Staff cuts and new newsrooms organization -telework, for instance- promote that autonomy.  But the weight of responsibility increases.

3-A journalist is a brand.

And his own product.If the job market is volatile, freelancing is an option (as it has always been). To value himself, a journalist must know how to sell his work: by creating off-work contents – blogs, photo galleries, slideshows, videos, flash experiments ,podcasts, etc. It is fundamental to have an entrepreneurial attitude, and know how to highlight his individuality. Personal marketing weighs in here, in the way your CV/Resume and  portfolio and also the profile in social networks is presented. Besides, it becomes more easy for the audience to associate the work to the worker, which humanizes the professional and the company he works for. Proactivity is a characteristic that all good journalists must have, but is of utmost importance in a world that allows to create  your own projects with low costs.

4-A journalist must network.

It had to before, but there were geographical limitations, social and economical factors , and a whole sort of real world constraints. Online, the limit is in the number and the value of the contacts one has. A well set up professional network can increase recognition and it allows to reach out to more sources and get help.

5-A journalist is a producer.

The age of typewriters is long gone, so we need to know something more than writing. Now  programming and video,audio, photography, design knowledge are demanded, to develop multimedia works on your own or to effectively communicate when working as a team.  And we can get  that knowledge online. The final result may no longer be a text, but a multimedia package, that we must know how to make, or explain.

6-A journalist is an information archaeologist.

Think of yourselves as explorers, digital Indiana Jones. There is room for new types of journalism, driven by database use or using links to older news related to the subject we’re covering. It’s part of the new role of journalists to select, cross, select and use other sources -even from the competition- from different times, simultaneously and immediately, to explain the evolution or to frame a story.  And the web is full of information for those who know how to look it up and use it.

7-A journalist is a moderator.

The journalist is the bridge between users, the newsroom and the story’s characters. Through managing the comments of the article, crowdsourcing, and collaborating with the readers, the journalist can add value to the first published draft. We must understand that a story isn’t finished after being published, there is always  more data that can help to improve the understanding of the facts. So, it’s  part of the role of the journalist to feed, gather and filter the dialogue that now is sustained with the users, and incorporate it in the final result.

8-A journalist is a authenticator.

Amid all the user generated content and contributions is up to the journalist to verify and validate what is news or not. Fact checking is still a part of the job, but now it has a bigger importance because of the immediate impact a wrong information can have, because it spreads faster and further. This is a good example.

9-A journalist is more a traffic cop than a private investigator.

Or even better:  there will be more traffic cops than private investigators.. .I’m sorry to destroy a romantic image of journalism, but there will be less Humphrey Bogarts, the rise in the volume of information will demand for more traffic managers. Their role will be essential to guide the masses in the search for information. Sites like NewsTrust.net are a good example. Journalistic creation and investigation will continue to exist, but most of the work will be redirecting users and contents into the right places.

10-A journalist is a DJ.

Remixes and makes the news flow coherent.

…and 5 things that haven’t changed:

1-A journalist is a professional specialized in gathering, treating, creating and managing information;

2-A journalist works for society;

3-A journalist is curious by nature, and tries to know more than what is showed;

4-A journalist is the first defender of freedom of speech and information;

5-A journalist is a target;

What other items can be added to these lists?

Other links used for this post:

The Changing Context of News Work:Liquid Journalism and Monitorial Citizenship, Mark Deuze (.pdf)

Is Web 2.0 killing journalism?

The changing role of journalists in a world where everyone can publish

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17 Respostas to “10 changes in journalists role (and 5 things that remain the same)”

  1. 1 k
    18 de Novembro de 2008 às 6:55 pm

    way to go!
    thumbs up for a post that I have indeed enjoyed reading, hope to get to see some more of these!


  2. 18 de Novembro de 2008 às 7:00 pm

    Thanks K, i’ll try to do more and better.

  3. 24 de Novembro de 2008 às 9:39 pm

    I’d clip this and put it on my fridge if it were in print. As it is, I’m Digging it.

    Well said.

  4. 24 de Novembro de 2008 às 9:48 pm

    Thanks Paul, the idea of having something i wrote posted on a stranger’s fridge is somewhat comforting,it’s a far more rewarding notion than social bookmarking. But do bookmark please. I’m glad you liked it that much.

  5. 6 de Janeiro de 2009 às 7:16 pm

    This is a great list. It’s important to understand who we are, where we came from and where we’re going. This sums it up succinctly.

    The whole notion of branding and networking is something too many journalists are scared of, as if it meant to sell your soul. I wrote a lengthy blog about it here, and I got some interesting private responses like “Oh no, I don’t even want to think about this.” It’s too bad! Think about it!

  6. 6 de Janeiro de 2009 às 7:56 pm


    Thank you,

    the two posts you wrote are incredible, and i recommend them to everyone – as a matter of fact i will write about them.

    But you’re right,journalists are used to live under a brand “hi, i’m from CNN, The Times, Rolling Stone” whatever, but now they can’t afford to think of themselves as someone else’s representatives. In such dire times (exciting times too) every professional must see himself as an independent entity, and as a unique person with a specific view and set of skills that sets him/her apart from the crowd. And the crowd is going through some rough times.

    I just can’t understand why they fear something they naturally do everyday, in real life.

    Glad you liked my list 🙂

  7. 7 Lady Judah
    2 de Abril de 2012 às 9:00 pm

    Reblogged this on The Chronicles of Lady Judah and commented:
    This is so true! Journalism, media, and the way we live and interact with media are constantly changing. Experimentation and understanding are two of the best methods of education.

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