Journalism’s in trouble.
Journalists, though, are definitely in trouble. Their industry is in upheaval and they’re losing jobs by the tens of thousands. Since I used to be a journalist, and because I sympathize, I thought I’d offer this Journalist’s Survival Guide. Hope it helps:
Step 1: Decide If You Still Want to Be a Journalist
Journalism’s not dead — at least if you ask Jason Falls. It is changing, however. The work environment for journalists will look drastically different in 2-3 years. The world will still needs journalism, but we’ll get it from a new cast of characters, with unfamiliar backgrounds, less conventional educations, more diverse voices, and a broader range of news gathering and reporting methods.
Your skill sets don’t limit you to traditional news reporting. You could be a marketer, a PR agent, a novelist, a blogger, a new world journalist. In fact, many of those roles will even merge together. Are you sold on being just a journalist on the future?
Step 2: Hang Your Shingle and Start Building an Audience
Start a blog if you haven’t already. Don’t blog just on your newspaper’s website. In fact, they’re probably not paying you to blog anyway, or if they are, they’ll stop paying you soon, so I say quit doing it altogether. Set up all your social media outposts. Follow Chris Brogan’s “If I Started Today” post as a guide.
Step 3: Forge Alliances
I predict online newspapers modeled after their print precursors will fail, too. Newspapers have always tried to appeal to the diverse interests of an audience whose only commonality was geography. In the digital era, I don’t need to endure a Weddings section, Lifestyles section and Comics section if all I want is the business news.
Where will people go for their reading material? In part, they’ll aggregate it themselves with RSS feeds and microblogging. But I believe they’ll also gravitate to multi-author networks like Huffington Post and Mashable. These platforms succeed because their rosters feature writers and content built around common interests, rather than common locations.
Since landing a gig at HuffPo ain’t easy, look to emerging content networks. Or create your own. By reaching out to other bloggers, journalists, ex-journalists, and other content creators, you can forge an alliance — a federation of content creators — that could rise from the ashes of 20th century media and attract dollars from 21st century digital marketers.
Step 4: Diversify Your Offerings
Look closely at Step 1. I didn’t say “decide what you want to be.” You can’t be just one thing anymore. You have to hedge your bets. Sure, be a journalist, but be a news reporter AND a columnist/blogger. Do some PR work, too. And freelance writing. And…whatever. You’ll need multiple income streams to survive in a decentralized information economy.
What about objectivity? It still matters, but how you demonstrate objectivity must adapt. Be open and transparent. Disclose potential conflicts of interest. The journalist code of ethics is outdated — you need a code of ethics that includes and expands on the best ethical principles of multiple industries.
Step 5: Get Closer to the Cutting Edge
When I graduated journalism school in 2001, the newspaper I worked for had one computer with an Internet connection. One. And it was dial-up. This was 2001, people — not 1981!
Newsrooms have always been way behind the innovation curve. If you’re gonna survive, you need to get closer to the leading edge. I’m not saying you need to be Scoble, but if Shaq’s using Twitter, you might want to think about it, too. In other words, dabble with new stuff. Hardware, software, websites…play around. It’s not about being first — it’s about being conversant by the time the mainstream gets onboard.
These are some of my ideas. What about yours? Thoughts?