As today’s media landscape continues to change and grow many traditional media organizations are being forced to reevaluate business models that have been in place for a long time. Although change can often be met with hesitance it is becoming increasingly obvious to many traditional media organizations that they must embrace change if they want to remain competitive in the industry.
New media is changing the way many people gather their news because it allows the audience to absorb the news they care about and skip over the information they don’t. Additionally, new media provides a platform for viewers and readers to share their insights and connect with other newsmakers and other audience members with similar interests.
Since there are so many ways to obtain news these days many news organizations and journalists are faced with some tough issues. They have to figure out how to remain relevant in today’s media industry while also maintaining the integrity of the profession.
All levels of journalism from local to international are facing the challenges that new media presents. As a journalist currently working at a local level I see how our own efforts are changing on a daily basis.
According to The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism “In local television, newscasts in recent years have placed an even greater emphasis on traffic, weather and sports, reduced the number of edited package stories on the air and shortened the lengths of stories, trends that may reflect the economic strains affecting the industry. With younger people tuning out local newscasts, there is growing concern that local TV news may be facing some of the financial challenges that have already battered the newspaper industry. And even as local TV newscasts seem to be doubling down on sports, traffic and weather, there are an ever increasing number of digital sources outside of television that provide that kind of information on demand.”
This quote painted an extremely accurate picture of things taking place at my station and that made me curious to find out if other local stations are experiencing similar changes.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin to gain more insight into this changing media climate. Kevin is a media professional who has worked in the industry for over 15 years. He has worked as a reporter (print and television), producer, photographer, and as an anchor. He is currently working at the most prominent station in Las Vegas, Nevada and prefers that I do not include his last name or his specific title.
Q: What are some of the biggest changes and challenges that your newsroom has experienced in recent years?
A: As you probably know there are been numerous changes in newsrooms across the country, one of the biggest things I began to notice a couple years ago was the lack of junior reporters. There was a time where we always had a number of junior reporters to cover the more mundane stories that the senior reporters did not care to cover and that allowed us to have more time to focus on the big stories, these days we have to make time for it all and that can certainly be a challenge. There has also been a big change in technology and that is to be expected, but now we are expected to learn how to use it because we have to edit our own packages a lot of the time since we have had to cut back on video editors and things of that nature. I have also noticed how relevant social media has become in the newsroom, we all have our own Twitter and Facebook pages where we can post additional stories and where we can view comments from our audience. I think it is great that news is becoming more interactive, but some of my co-workers are not too happy about it. They do not appreciate having to maintain active social media profiles, they do not seem to understand or care how this helps increase our relevance.
Q: How has your approach to putting together a newscast changed? Do you think adopting these changes has helped your station grow its audience and/or revenue?
A: Our approach has changed a lot. Gone are the days of the traditional newscast, our audience’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter and so our packages are getting shorter too. We are producing less packages and we are spending more time referencing our social media pages, reading comments from our viewers on-air, and we have a number of contests that we run so that we can capture the largest audience possible. It’s not just the news anymore, we have to incorporate an entertainment factor. We are hopeful that continuing to adapt with the times will allow us to maintain and grow our audience and in turn the growth will help us obtain more revenue. Of course we care about expanding our brand, but we also want to uphold our standards and remain a source of news that can be trusted.
Q: What lessons have you learned that you can pass on to other journalists?
A: Well I have been in the business for quite a while now so of course I have learned a number of lessons, but there are a few that I think are extremely important for a young (or not so young) journalist hoping to become successful in the business. First and foremost embrace technology. You need to be as self-sufficient as possible, if you show up expecting a whole team to help you produce your stories you are going to be in for a rude awakening. Resources are becoming more limited by the day, especially in your smaller markets so you need to learn how to do as much on your own as you can, don’t trap yourself in an “I only report,” or “I only write,” box, you need to walk in and say “I can write, I can shoot, I can edit…etc.” The more skills you can display the easier it will be for you to secure employment. Also, embrace social media. Social media and other forms of new media are really a big deal. You need to make sure your are familiar with the major social media networks and blogs because most news organizations are integrating these things with their traditional news style and you need to be prepared to do so as well.