Embracing Media Convergence
by Hayli Morrison
You know the industry has changed when the daily news hits the blogs. It’s seen not only on notoriously edgy web sites like AOL or MTV, but on the sites of every major news outlet in America, including such journalistic pillars as the Wall Street Journal
and New York Times
. Weblogs, formerly viewed primarily as a way for amateurs and rumormongers to disseminate their opinions, have come into their own as a very integral piece of the modern journalistic puzzle.
Most major media outlets have online news producers working separately from the print or video news producers. However, the blogging trend is gaining steam among small and mid-sized markets, where most novice media professionals get their feet wet. Because these outlets don’t have the same financial resources as industry giants, their staff is often forced to do double-duty.
Fortunately for print reporters, another trend is gaining ground – shorter, less meaty news pieces. It’s called McNews, USA Today style; with fewer jumps to the inside and heavy on the graphics. Conveniently, it leaves reporters time to write up the day’s breaking news for the company web site, too. On many sites, video pieces are included as well.
“The reporters are blogging and talking on film about what they’re writing about,” said Vanessa Richardson, a freelance writer for MSNBC.com and Bankrate.com. “It’s not enough just to write anymore. You have to be blogging and have your face on the Internet. It’s less about how many words and more about graphics, visuals and what you can do to keep eyes on the page.”
The emerging technology has a ripple effect of other considerations for modern-day media professionals. From salary and benefits to competition and insta-news, technology is changing the face of media and shaking things up like never before.
There has long been stiff competition between television, radio and print reporters – the age-old struggle over who’s prettier, more talented, and ultimately, who gets the scoop. Now more than ever before, they could all stand to teach each other a thing or two. Students should take on a diverse courseload and dabble in different mediums to gain a broader range of skills and determine which option they prefer. The most important skill to acquire now is video editing, according to Rich Clement, a former Reuters photographer who still contracts with the newswire service.
“Everybody wants video on their web sites now,” Clement said. “It’s almost becoming a requirement now. If you’re going to try to get a staff job somewhere, you need to have some idea of video editing.”
Media industry veterans may find the tech-driven changes unfamiliar and uncomfortable at first, but they would do well to embrace the inevitable.
“There’s always resistance to new technology,” Clement said. “When digital cameras came out, there was so much resistance from the people who shot film and they said, ‘I’ll never shoot digital.’ Well, that changed.”
Unfortunately, increased responsibilities and visibility don’t necessarily come with increased pay, which spawned the recently-settled, three-month Writers Guild strike. “I don’t think (reporters) are getting paid more than they were 10 years ago, but they should,” Richardson said. “The whole job description is changing. The writer has to be out there more for brand recognition.”
More writers are finding that telecommuting opens up doors to take on new and creative challenges and strike the work-life balance that best suits them. It can also answer the pay question, as working a little here and there for three or four clients can be considerably more productive and lucrative than punching the clock for only one employer.
Additionally, more media agencies are finding that it can be quite convenient to have telecommuting reporters – traditionally referred to as “stringers” – strategically placed around the country. It also alleviates the hassle of employee benefits and taxes.
“We’ve got tools that make (telecommuting) more possible and we’ve got people who are more comfortable managing in that environment,” said Randall Craig, career expert and author of Personal Balance Sheet
career planning guide.
It is a well-known fact that the highly coveted 18-to-34 demographic is hanging around the Internet. This creates an even greater push for media outlets to trend toward online content and get creative with their advertising packages. Whereas advertising may have once focused solely on the column inch or the 30-second television or radio spot, it often now includes Internet advertising space to up the ante.
The Internet has also affected the way media organizations approach news reporting. Modern-day media coverage travels faster and farther than ever before. As a result, many media institutions are pre-writing celebrity obituaries and the deaths of prominent people are reported practically in real time. Unfortunately, the tech-driven, gossip-obsessed race for more detailed, riveting stories means accuracy and decorum can be sacrificed at times. Indeed, the media industry is a different world now. One can only hope that media professionals – and the institutions that educate them – can keep up.