We journalists are always reflecting on the future of our profession. The last time was during the recent Journalism Conference organized by the Association of Catalan Journalists. The speed at which information consumption is evolving and the diversification and multiplication of media outlets that have emerged as transmitters of information all forces journalists to undertake constant study in order to stay ahead of the game and remain linked to the public who consume this information. After all, it is the public who make media companies economically viable.
For this reason, the classic figure of the journalist is on the way to becoming a thing of the past, consigned to a page in the history of journalism. However, the essence of journalism will always remain the same: Find a good story and tell it. But now more than ever, this exciting job, which may appear to be simple, has become much more complicated. Journalists now need to have an in-depth knowledge of the entire transmission chain between the source and the end consumer if they want the story to reach the widest public and end up also being profitable for the media companies who pay their salary. We could say that of the whole media production chain, the part that has changed the least is related to finding the information. On the other hand, the part that has now become greatly complicated is related to packaging the information appropriately for the media. The information package needs to be adjusted depending on whether the media outlet works with written or audiovisual material, in the format of print, radio, TV or online and whether the distribution channels are accessed via TV screens, PCs, smartphones, tablets, newspapers, radio, TV, websites or social networks.
Having an in-depth understanding of the function, usability and the public who uses each one of these channels is extremely important for the distribution of information to be successful. Not only must journalists find a good story, they must also understand and apply the best mechanisms to ensure the maximum number of users hear about it. This is the case for digital journalism where, now more than ever, knowledge of technology is indispensable for a journalist’s success. The online newsrooms nowadays comprise teams of new professional figures who were just beginning – or simply did not exist – little more than 10 years ago. Audience analysts, community managers, cover artists, designers, technology developers, big data, experts in digital marketing and advertising, and so on work alongside journalists and they are key pieces in the online newsroom structure.
Journalists need to adapt the publication times and dates, the language, the style of writing, headings, the way the information is contextualized and formatted and how the photographs and videos are placed, among other things. All of this helps to give the information the ideal finish both in terms of different presentation formats and in terms of the large distributors, which these days are mainly search engines and social networks that bring the story to the end users. Knowing and understanding this reality and its mechanisms is vital in order to be able to form part of the new newsrooms or to be considered a media outlet. For professionals who wish to pursue this career, constant learning is important, as well as the ability to transform and adapt.
This is the challenge and the great opportunity presented by a profession which has preserved its foundations while continuously reinventing its methods of production.