Degrees of uncertainty for students of journalism
What will journalism look like in twenty years? Will newspapers still exist? Punch research journalist Kelly Simpson and four of her fellow students from the University of Technology Sydney gaze into the crystal ball…
Kelly Simpson – Postgraduate journalism student, UTS: How did you hear that Michael Jackson had died? That we’d lost the Ashes?
Print is dead, I’ve been assured. I’ve missed the glory days. There’ll be no ink smudged copy for me, no physical front page, no morning AND evening editions of the newspapers.
The people who tell me this will themselves be dead within twenty years, barring some sort of biological miracle. Hopefully with them will die out the strange need to talk down the next generation of writers and pour scorn on their methods and ambition.
Because – and this is a bit radical – much of the conversation regarding the future of journalism is taking place without traditional journalists. On purpose.
I have long thought that weekend papers should be sold out of a pick and mix bar at the back of the newsagent: pick up the news, sport and maybe some analysis or opinion and forget about the rest.
And I dig newspapers – really, I do. As readers, they make you work for your news. Wrestle with your broadsheet as you’re squashed between two invariably overweight ‘humans’ on your way to work. Dodge Piers and Miranda to get to Annabel and Joe. Cut out articles you really love and keep them, because they just feel better in the flesh.
But it’s unsustainable and economically stupid to print newspapers that are half filled with junk, information we’ve already been told or that we can more easily digest elsewhere.
We can’t know what journalism will look like in twenty years because we can’t even agree on what journalism looks like now.
It just won’t look like a newspaper.
Diana Nguyen – Postgraduate journalism student, UTS:
At a time when journalism is synonymous with ‘a dying industry’, I sometimes wonder what being shot in the arm is like. Could it be worse than setting up a home in Hyde Park and writing voluntary pieces for two years? And still without a job.
I wanted to be many (employable) things when I was younger; a policeman, a doctor and a primary school teacher. My fears of being shot, of blood and general dislike of children escalated as I became older and consequently, crushed all three dreams. And now, I’m a journalist. Or at least that’s what my lecturers want me to think.
The world of journalism is painted bleak, where the work is sparse and the competition many.
As more print publications come to an end, many people are expecting print journalism to be a thing of the past. But I’m not one of them. Yes, there will be cut backs in print but I don’t think it will disappear altogether. Online, radio and television news are generally based on print stories so that may contribute to the longevity of print journalism. Print will likely become limited and niche-based but not extinct.
And then there’s the so-called ‘saviour’ of journalism, the Internet.
Fairfax Media reported an annual net loss of A$380.0 million recently, with the economic slump, advertising cuts and the Internet to blame. Plus, Rupert Murdoch announced he will charge access to all his news sites in 2010 after making a huge financial loss this year.
Online journalism is often regarded as the ‘future of journalism’ by those in the profession. Online provides journalists (and non-journalists) with more opportunities to get their works published (and plagiarised) to a wider audience than print. As there is a growing number of people reading online, more news sites are launched to accommodate this trend. However, there are more factual, grammatical and spelling errors online than in print.
Xavier O’Halloran – Postgraduate journalism student, UTS:
There is every chance that in twenty years I will have traded the last threads of my left-wing idealism for a comfortable job marketing ‘Hello Kitty’ cigarettes to minors. I’ll still be so confounded by the relativism of my post-modern education that I won’t know, or probably even care, why I got into journalism in the first place.
Will newspapers still be around in twenty years? We will probably lose a few along the way, but it won’t necessarily be a bad thing. It’s simply a sign of the global world we live in, where much of the city vs. city, state vs. state and country vs. country tribalism of the past is being replaced by broader shared experiences. I’m happy that LOL cats are just as funny to me as to a 70-year-old retiree living in the Florida Keys.
Perhaps contradictory to this, at the same time as we are being pushed together by the centrifugal force of globalisation our media sources are diversifying. The online world has allowed for more sites to tailor media to different identities, conditions and tastes. So while there may be fewer newspapers in the future there will be more opportunity for media diversity.
All won’t be lost for me as journalist either, because in twenty years I’ll also be hitting my mid-life crisis and like all white people I’ll move to India to find myself, à la The Darjeeling Limited. I might even save an Indian kid from drowning and feel emboldened by some sense of neo-white man’s burden. I’ll come out of it all with certitude of who I am and what I’m going to do.
Just like me, journalism might go through some uncertainty as it tries to figure out what it is over the next twenty years, but it will come out the other side better for it.
Amanda Hoh – Postgraduate journalism student, UTS:
Newspapers are like vintage fashion that will take a long time, if ever, to fade. News is moving to the web and will only get bigger and faster in the future. But, even for a Generation Y-er who is all things Twitter and Facebook, there is a certain level of sophistication about getting print on your fingers and that tradition won’t be disappearing any time soon.
I think newspapers have been with us for so long, people will find it hard to break the habit of reading on the train, during lunch, and on the weekends and especially not within the next twenty years. Even though we have to pay for the paper, the news has the reputation of being well investigated and thoughtfully placed compared to online which is great for fast breaking news on the hour and values speed, quirkiness and controversy much more highly.
We are told at uni, DON’T GO INTO PRINT. Online and digital production is the way forward and the place where we can get the most jobs. The Internet has opened up access to news sites all over the world and with the technical facility to pair multimedia with news broadcast, it is the place which will provide new journalists the best opportunity in the market and the fastest way to break news.
However, even with the advent of information and news on the web, I still find holding and reading a tangible medium much more satisfying than reading off a computer screen.
Lauren Moorhouse – Undergraduate Journalism Student, UTS:
The apocalypse is coming. At least, outwardly, that seems to be the case for newspapers around the world. The depressing future envisioned for print publications has been seeping into the public consciousness nearly as much as it has hit media commentary, university classrooms and academic circles.
Predictions for the downward spiral and ultimate demise of the newspaper have been around for over a decade now, basically since the advent of the Internet in the early 1990s. Analysts and experts came out of the woodwork and argued that the technological advancements that had helped created the world wide web would be the final nail in the coffin for the out-of-date, backwards newspapers. Apparently, they didn’t stand a chance. And to make matters worse, newspapers are being threatened by citizen journalism with the arrival of blogs, search engines and various forms of popular social networking.
So the big question is, will newspapers exist in the future? I’d answer by posing more questions – Did the introduction of cinema and film kill the desire to watch musicals and plays at the theatres? Did radio die out when television came into the picture?
Industries change and adapt and that is what we are seeing at the moment with Rupert Murdoch’s announcement to start charging for his online content. We’ve been lucky that we’ve had the ability for the last ten years to have the knowledge of the universe at our fingertips. Did we think we could get away with freebies for life?
Journalism is a business and it’s still trying to find the right online model. I don’t believe for a second that there won’t be newspapers in the future, simply because we have the Internet today. It’s not about chastising a medium simply because something new has come along. It should be about bringing the two mediums together to get the best quality journalism out there for the public to consume.
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