Lecture students at QUT have been left enlightened after Amy Remeikis, Fairfax Digital’s Queensland political editor, explains how online mediums have shaped the traditional journalism industry. But what are the most staggering changes to have occurred?
I listed the top nine from her lecture – and the results might surprise you.
- You aren’t boxed into a single journalism career.
The introduction of the Internet has caused the barriers between individual journalism careers to dissolve, creating an industry in which the ‘multi-skilled’ journalist is considered the norm.
“You’re not just a print journalist, you’re not just a broadcast journalist and you not just an online journalist. You’re everything,” says Ms Remeikis.
2. Your deadlines run all day.
The Internet has cast aside the traditional 24-hour news deadline that was favoured among that days of print. Journalists are now required to publish news content at regular integrals, in order to coincide with the public’s reading habits. These are:
- 7am – 9am; when people are getting up or travelling.
- 10:30am; when people are standing in line to get a coffee.
- Lunchtime (approximately 12pm – 12:30pm); when people are out and/or getting lunch.
- 3:30pm – 4pm; when people are getting an afternoon snack or collecting their children.
- Peak hour (approximately 5:30pm – 7pm); when people are travelling.
- 10pm – 11pm; when people check the news before they go to sleep.
“We are constantly updating websites around those times to catch those people’s reading habits, which means I have to have a story to update all day,” says Ms Remeikis.
3. You have to be first.
The Internet has radically changed the journalism industry’s concept of what is ‘breaking news’. Journalists are now forced to accelerate the traditional news gathering processes because the public wants – and is now used to – information presented in real time. The public is expected to receive information as soon as a journalist or media outlet receives it.
“Speed is everything, now. You have to be quick, you have to be correct, you have to be authentic and you have to try to be first,” says Ms Remeikis.
Sitting on a story is now a risk in the journalism industry, as you may be dubbed slow by the public, out-scooped by competitors or out-scooped by amateurs on social media websites.
4. You can put personality into your content.
The book Broadcast Journalism states that, previously, journalists had to hang up their personal life with their coats when they entered their place of employment. With this, they were to hang up their bias, their background, their politics and their prejudices in order to be a true professional. In the online sphere, Ms Remeikis says the professional identity and ideologies of journalists are being reinvented.
“We can be more creative in this new media than we ever could before,” says Ms Remeikis. “You get to put a little bit more personality into your online news items.”
This shift in professionalised ideals is due to the Internet’s normalisation of everyone (such that there are no societal, religious or cultural constraints), and the audiences increasing desire for news items that personally connect with them.
5. You can tweak your story.
“The great thing about online is you can tweak the story. If you haven’t got it right the first time, you can go back and publish it a second time,” says Ms Remeikis.
This is extremely beneficial for modern journalists, as it allows the fixing of grammatical errors, editorial errors, punctuation errors and inconsistencies. It also gives journalists the opportunity to add, remove and reword information, or re-do the news item altogether.
6. You have to compete for the public’s attention.
In the old days, a journalist was given a led and sent out into the field in order to gather a story. In modern times, when a journalist is sent out into the field, there may already be several compilations of the given led or story already published on social media. It’s now up to the journalist to take that aspect into consideration and find a new angle in order to capture the reader’s attention.
“There’s more competition for people’s attention now then there ever was before. This is not only online, but also in broadcast and print,” Ms Remeikis says. “You’re writing to an audience who is on the go. They might be about to fall asleep at night, they might be waiting for a coffee, they might be on a bus, they might be in a lecture – it doesn’t matter. These people want information. You’re job it to hook them in.”
7. You can interact with your audience.
“This is the one time in human history when we are able to talk directly to our audiences. It’s the one time when you can talk to the people who are, essentially, keeping you employed,” says Ms Remeikis.
The public now has a say as to what news interests them and to what level of engagement they wish to pursue news items. Ms Remeikis states that audience members who engage with online news content can provide benefits for journalists.
“It helps having that conversation with readers, in that if there’s a question I haven’t thought to ask – and that does happen – I can then use that to my advantage,” she says. “It may be an obvious question that you didn’t think to put in you story, because you assumed everybody already knows, but you now know you have to address.”
8. You can improve from audience feedback.
The Internet has allowed audiences the option to go directly to the author of a given news item. Here, they can provide direct feedback to a journalist.
“You have to pay attention to your audience,” says Ms Remeikis. “If they’re going nuts in the comment section on something you’ve written, and it’s not about the actual topic of the story – like they think you’re being unfair or you’re not being accurate – then you have to listen. You have to change how you’re doing your job.”
9. You can improve from readership feedback.
“New journalism is good, because it allows me to see the readership of my audience. And when they aren’t reading a certain story, you need to ask yourself ‘why’,” says Ms Remeikis. “You either need to change where the news item is on the site or you haven’t quiet got the angle that would bring interest to your audience.”