Do we still need journalists?

Given the departure of paper-based media, are people still hungry for news? Is journalism still a viable career choice?

Journalist taking a photo

When it comes to the relevance of journalism in today's world, the simple answer is, yes – people continue to be hungry for news, and there’s no evidence that the public’s appetite is waning. But like most things in the 21st century, the media industry has had to adapt to the digital era.

How has journalism changed?

There are still plenty of positions advertised in journalism, however, there is a marked difference in the skills required now, compared to the pre-digital era. No longer do journalists have to choose one of the three traditional channels of print, radio or broadcast.

Media companies are looking for self-sufficient journalists with an understanding of today’s fast-paced digital landscape. An example of a modern day journalist is Ashlynne McGhee, who filmed a four-minute segment for ABC News, using only her iPhone. Save the Children, an Australian NGO, invited Ashlynne to visit Jordan and Lebanon and report on the Syrian refugee crisis. Ashlynne wanted to travel light—so with her iPhone and a tripod, she shot seven interviews, a piece-to-camera, and a ‘teaser’ for the evening news.

Social media is your ally

The changes affecting media companies have also had an impact on investigative reporting, a costly endeavour that requires time and expertise. But according to Amanda Gearing of the Queensland University of Technology, social media is helping to change that. She says: “At a time of newspaper closures and newsroom cuts … digital technologies can help journalists cover stories that would otherwise be too expensive or time-consuming to cover, or else impossible to find.”

Social media, Gearing says, has assisted Australian investigative reporters with some of the biggest breaking news stories, including the AFL drug scandal, where ABC journalist, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, used social media to verify associations between people, and track down sources for interviews. In the end, it resulted in her “beating so many better connected sports journalists”.

The rise of the niche market

Another advantage the digital era has brought to journalism is what’s referred to as the ‘rise of the niche market’. Websites have much lower production costs compared to print and broadcast media, enabling smaller publications to meet their audiences’ needs, without having to compete against the major media companies.

Tim Burrowes of Mumbrella wrote: “When media commentators discuss the future of journalism, they usually agree on at least one thing: it will involve fewer generalists and more reporters dedicated to exhaustively covering niche fields.”

Learning timeless skills

Excelling in this industry and embracing new technologies requires expert guidance. The best way to get started is by studying a degree majoring in journalism, such as a Bachelor of Communication from Griffith University. For media professionals, you can brush up on specific areas with a single subject of uni study, such as Media Law or News and Politics.

Studying journalism is a fascinating discipline and a vocation that’s not likely to fade anytime soon, despite the transitions taking place in the field. Where there’s people, there’s always a story to be told!

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