What Should Media and Journalism Students & Graduates Do to Stay Relevant in the Age of Social Media and Citizen Journalism
Several recent studies and surveys have found that degrees in Journalism, Advertising & PR, and Communication are losing the charm. In the previous post, we discussed how modern technology and digitization are impacting the future of journalism. In this article, we will discuss some of the current trends and future perspectives around that. Additionally, I will share a few advice and tips for mass communication & journalism students and graduates to stay relevant in the digital age and competitive in the job market.
Journalism in the Age of Digital Media: Current Scenario and Future Perspectives
TV & Print Media Losing Popularity
The sales of newspapers have been on a decline since the 2000s.
Here is the question:
“Why buy a newspaper with stale news when you can get the minute-old details online?
Websites, apps, social media updates, etc. have taken over the journalism world by storm.“
Rise of Citizen Journalism
Additionally, there is the rise of social media influencers (including YouTubers, TikTokers), bloggers, and citizen journalists.
The internet has created a new form of journalism that is on the rise and slowly changing the rules of the game: “citizen journalism”. Mobile phones become impromptu recording devices, blogs become overnight op-ed sections, and social media accounts slowly morph into self-advertisement strategies.
Earlier media organizations used to control both content and channels and we used to access news directly by going to a specific broadcaster or publisher. At present, we are living in the digital world that is increasingly characterized by “distributed discovery”. Today, media organizations still create content, but we access it through platform channels like search engines, social media, and news aggregators.
People are Looking for Diverse Sources for Verification
The automated serendipity of social media feeds and search engine results and incidental exposure (where people come across news while doing other things online) drive people to more and more diverse sources of information.
Empirical research consistently finds that search engines and a wide range of different social media including both Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube demonstrably drive people to use more different sources of news, including more diverse sources and sources they do not seek out of their own volition.
Growing Problems of Fake News
While a small minority of news lovers are extremely interested in news and access news several times a day, a far greater number of people access news less than once daily.
Today, journalism is often losing the battle for people’s attention and, in some countries, for the public’s trust.
Fake news on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. are creating havoc in modern society.
Applying critical thinking and leveraging AI can help to counter fake news. Currently, AI-ML & Analytics are being implemented to prevent fake news regarding the COVID-19 issue. It’s a serious problem. However, this is also an excellent opportunity for new-age journalists to thrive.
Demand for Better and More Ethical Business Models
The existing forms of funding for professional journalism will decline as we continue to move to a more digital media environment where platforms like Google and Facebook capture most of the advertising, leading to further job cuts in newsrooms. The risk here is not simply retrenchment and less coverage of many important issues, but also a less robust business of journalism more vulnerable to media capture by the state or politically motivated owners, and to pressure from advertisers.
News is More Diverse than Ever
It is clear that cost-cutting, increased pressure to produce more stories across more channels, and a 24/7 news cycle has led to a large volume of more superficial journalism.
At the same time, digital media have also allowed different marginalized voices to be heard and offer access to a far wider range of different sources and points of view.
So, what is the future of journalism in the digital age?
As journalists have embraced digital media and evolved various new formats, the best journalism in many countries today is in some ways better than ever – more independent of elite sources, more accessible, more timely, more informative, more interactive, more engaged with its audience.
The role of journalistic revelations in many different cases, including the #MeToo movement, in confronting corruption amongst public officials, and in fuelling public debate around platform companies’ power and privacy practices, underline the continued relevance of investigative reporting.
As we move forward, independent professional journalism will be more important than ever in helping people understand the major challenges and opportunities facing us, from day-to-day local events to global issues.
But as the business of news changes, journalism also risks becoming less robust, and ultimately incapable of helping the public make sense of our times or holding power to account.
This challenge is only compounded by increasingly open political hostility towards independent professional journalism, in the worst cases a veritable war on journalism.
But, there is hope!
Remember, the rise of digital media has also enabled the spread of disinformation and demagoguery (biaised and political agenda driven news) and undermined the funding of professional journalism as we know it.
– Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and Meera Selva (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)
So, don’t worry. There will be jobs.
Nobody has come up with a solution that truly works for turning digital news into profits. Besides, you can’t do journalism without journalists, no matter how smart your AI is.
The digital world has opened up more possibilities for journalism than ever before. It allows for immediate publishing, updating as needed, and distribution via multiple outlets. Now the reality is that anyone can be their own publishing house or broadcaster.
That is a good thing and a bad thing. But trained journalists have the power to get their words read via a variety of channels that didn’t exist before.
The bottom line is that the field of journalism will become even more competitive. Here are a few suggestions for aspiring journalists to stay competitive in the digitally-driven job market.
Career Tips for Journalism Students & Graduates to Stay Relevant in the Digital Age
Journalists will be required to promote themselves as well as their content online. And this has to be done by not just being active as journalists but as social media persons as well. One has to be social media-conscious when any piece has to be penned or a video has to be made. One has to understand the pulse of the digital audience. However, please avoid narcissism. Read tips on personal branding and online presence.
The style has to be crisper as well as should have some viral element in it. The content should have an element for engagement on social media. Here the negative aspect is that the border between journalism and blogging is very blurred; but then blogging is an opinion piece while journalism has to be supported by facts, quotes, figures (data), etc.
Here are a few useful articles:
Know and Understand Your Audience
There will be core jobs and other opportunities if you know how to tap the pulse of a digital audience. While there are only limited newspapers, TV channels, etc., new websites are coming up every now and then and scaling up the ladder of popularity through good journalism. This straight away means more opportunities for Journalism Students. There is always scope for those who practice good writing and for them there is never looking back.
Diversify Your Skillset and Leverage Technology
Pick up the skills in Photoshop (or even Graphic Design and UI/UX Design), Foreign Language, Digital Storytelling, Video Editing, Automated Machine Learning, and Data Analytics.
There is a future of journalism in the digital world. If journalists can combine reporting skills presented nicely in short duration video/animation video backed by data and analytics. Read Top 7 skills that a digital journalist must have.
If you have to stay relevant and competitive in the job market, there is no alternative for continuous learning through upskilling and reskilling. Also, feel free to browse our curated list of best online courses for skill development and jobs.
Invest in Advanced Degrees (MRes, M.Phil, PhD)
Yes! Owing to the highly competitive scenario in the current times, a degree in mass communication and journalism, attained from a reputed educational institute, where you get proper guidance & mentoring through theory and practical based learning, serves as the foundation for a bright and flourishing career in the domain. Finally, make sure you attend a top university (either in India or abroad). The brand name of the institute will matter even more in the future.
Find a Mentor (or Career Coach)
You have a couple of internships under your belt. But, what’s next? For many, the thought of entering the job market is overwhelming. The thought of picking your career path is daunting. Where do you turn?
For many students, mentors provide guidance and can help steer the director of their careers. Mentors provide that additional level of guidance students just simply can’t get in class. Read how mentors can help accelerate journalism careers.
According to studies, very few successful journalists make it all on their own. Most have help from mentors and become mentors themselves.
Don’t confuse Career Counselling with Mentoring!
With the rapid pace of digitization and how quick media is changing, external perspectives can radically transform one’s career. Mentors provide career guidance along with objective advice. Read Career Counselor vs Mentor vs Career Coach.
A mentor is someone who has been there before and is willing to take a step back and say, “I’ve been there, and here’s what you can do“.
If you need any career advice or help with Masters or PhD applications, you can consult with me or any other counselors on Stoodnt. However, if you are looking for career coaching or mentoring, you will specifically need to get in touch with subject matter experts – Baishali Mukherjee or Nirali Mehta.
In fact, according to the International Journalists’ Network, mentoring is even more critical for women journalists. Here are some of the key problems that women face in the journalism & media field:
How do I balance my journalism career, marriage, and family in a society where women struggle for equality?
How can I make a case for a promotion or raise without upsetting my boss?
What can I do about sexual advances from newsroom colleagues or sources?
What should I be doing to further my career?
You also need to be specific about the specialization. If you want to cover Scientific Journalism or Sports Journalism, working with a local reporter or political journalist might not help you too much.
Now, with the popularity of digital media and platforms like Skype or Zoom, location is also not a problem to connect with mentors or career coaches.
Read the following interviews on Careers & Jobs in Media, Mass Communication & Journalism
The market for digital media will continue to be influential, effective, and won’t die down anytime soon. With technology progressing even more in the future, digital content will stay at the top. The innovation of creative tools to create content will only build the supremacy of reporting.
To establish a journalism career, you will need a journalism degree, and ideally, an advanced one, which will prepare you to enter the industry. Through learning, start your careers with portfolios of your work in the form of published stories, videos, and audio clips, etc. This will showcase their skills to potential employers and make it easier for them to secure work.
The digital platforms and tools have created a massive change in how conveniently we receive news. We can, therefore, say that the digital age has advanced journalism and created more opportunities for journalists. Digital media is a great channel to distribute and look at for news.
Author: Tanmoy Ray
I am a Career Adviser & MS Admission Consultant. Additionally, I also manage online marketing at Stoodnt. I did my Masters from the UK (Aston University) and have worked at the University of Oxford (UK), Utrecht University (Netherlands), University of New South Wales (Australia) and MeetUniversity (India).
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