The Evolution of Journalists


Once upon a time there was a dear little chicken named Chicken Licken. One morning as she was scratching in her garden, a pebble fell off the roof and hit her on the head.  “Oh, dear me!” she cried, “The sky is falling. I must go and tell the King,” and away she ran down the road.

Once upon a time there was a reporter for the New York Times named David Carr. One morning as he was scratching his head at his computer, a weekly paper called Christian Science Monitor ceased publishing after a century in business. “Oh, dear me!” he cried, “The sky is falling. I must go and tell the world.”

Now whether or not this is exactly how events unfolded in the New York Times office on October 28, I’m not sure. But I imagine it was something along these lines.

When guest lecturer, Matthew Yeomans stood in front of a room full of trainee journalists and told them print journalism is dying, at least two thirds of those journalists groaned. Just what we all needed to (once again) hear.

Yet Yeomans was there with a smile on his face telling us not to worry, as long as we all become like the Archaeopteryx, we’ll be fine. Yep you heard correctly, in order to stay in the journalism game we have to go from being dinosaurs to birds.


Well, maybe I don’t want to evolve into a bird, maybe I’m happy to be a dinosaur forever, what happens then? What will happen is, dinosaurs like me will become extinct and all the birds will be flying straight to Fleet Street. So like it or not, I have to embrace this change, evolve into a bird and fly into the sun like the rest of the archaeopteryx.

OK enough of the bird/dinosaur analogies. Media is changing, and we all have to change with it. If I don’t embrace my (deeply) hidden technology-loving self, then I’m going to have to pursue another career.

Carolyn McCall announced at the Cardiff Business Club Annual Dinner that regional news is dying. Everything is pointing to online and if we want to make a career out of the news, online is where the future lies. Now I always had a sneaking suspicion that Glyn was slightly exaggerating the whole “future of journalism is online” thing (or at least was secretly hoping), but after hearing it from the horse’s mouth so to speak, I realise I have to stop being anti-online, and get with the programme (literally).

Matthew Yeomans believes the internet has revolutionised journalism in three ways. Now everyone has the power to publish, participate and choose. A perfect storm has been created and the world has more power at its fingertips than ever before. Our audience is talking back, they have the power – but is this necessarily a good thing? Traditional journalists may not like it, but many people argue this is essential for democracy.

Jeff Jarvis is one of these people. He warns “the world is watching, we’re the bosses now.” His Dell Hell blog is the perfect example of this.

One unsatisfied customer’s experience led not only to comments and links on his blog but press coverage from newspapers and magazines. Dell sustained long-term damage to its brand image after Jarvis’s blog, which in turn led to a white paper proving bloggers have an influence on corporate reputation. All of this perfectly illustrates Yeoman’s 1:10:100 principle – that one person can have an effect on a world-wide audience. Now the media has to sit up and take notice, the world has been given a voice and this, apparently, is the key to the future of journalism.

On more than one occasion I have been told that this media revolution we are in is either the best or worst time to be a trainee journalist. But the question is, which is it? What will my future hold as a journalist? If I can’t get to grips with online journalism, will I have to look for another career? These are the worries that constantly consume me yet what is the point worrying about the future?

Each day we, as human beings, change and evolve into the person we are. We might not make such a drastic change as the archaeopteryx does but we do change. In the same way, journalists change and evolve every day, be it from a new news story, new news room, new editor, new job role or new media. We might not know what the future of journalism will look like, but as Jarvis himself effectively puts it, we’ll know what to call it when we see it. And we will evolve and change in whatever way is necessary to welcome this new journalism into our lives.

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