Journalists and journalism majors must adapt to an evolving medium

By Alexander Heller

I know I shouldn’t start the new year all stressed out about the future, but the recent Huffington Post and BuzzFeed layoffs have gotten me worried about a career that’s looking to become smaller and scarcer in regards to its workforce and job opportunities. The ever changing landscape of “new media” (web based news outlets) has called into question the notion that simply being a reporter is still the viable way of getting a job in media and keeping it. 

I’m sorry to break it to you boys and girls, but that way of life is going the way of the Dodo. A recent graduate or someone with less experience who just simply writes isn’t likely to get a job in this highly competitive market. Even if they get a job, their job security is as thin as a piece of tissue paper. Or, perhaps more fittingly, newspaper.  

However, here’s the thing that I may have discovered about the “new media” layoffs. Media outlets are looking for individuals who have a Swiss Army knife of skills and talents that are extremely valuable and useful. Yes, you can still be a reporter, but in this day and age reporting is far more nuanced than just writing.

Journalists and journalism majors need to start understanding the few skills that several media outlets are looking for. Can you shoot video and photos? Can you use photoshop? Do you know how to collect and quantify data? How effective is your video editing? How well do you know social media? Can you copy edit efficiently and quickly? Apart from experience, these are merely some of the questions that media outlets are asking and expecting from journalism graduates nowadays.

-Courtesy of Politico.com

That’s not to say that any of the reporters who got laid off at the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed were bad at their job, or that I’m discrediting what they did. Some reporters from those platforms told amazing stories that no other reporters could. At the same time, we have to take into account that the medium has changed and that journalists in the next 10 years have to understand a plethora of ways of storytelling.

If it were me in this situation, I would find my own stories and make my own luck. If the job isn’t secure, then you make the job! Sometimes you have to forge ahead on your own path. 

Freelancing might not sound lucrative, but many media outlets can see what exactly it is you do by seeing some of your work. Media outlets will often see an accomplished, skilled freelancer as a more valuable asset than, for example, a recent college graduate with little or no practical experience/skillset at all. 

It’s difficult watching these layoffs happen, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of web-based journalism or journalism as a whole. If you’re skilled at both adapting and reporting in new and creative ways, then working in journalism won’t be a huge problem for you. Just understand the consequences and evolving expectations of the medium.

For questions/comments about this story, email afxheller3695@gmail.com or tweet @AFXHeller.

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