The field has always been in a state of flux, evolving with the invention of each new medium from radio to the Internet.
The key, according to a recent PBS MediaShift post, is being able to adapt to these changes. Sue Robinson relays advice on how to handle digital disruption, shared during the recent International Symposium on Online Journalism. Here are a few of the panelists' tips:
Change more than the platform
Although most news outlets have put their content online, some organizations still haven't developed a web-specific strategy. According to Clark Gilbert, president and CEO of the Deseret News Publishing Company, many outlets are still in a traditional journalism mindset. "In a post-disruption world, why would people pick up a paper at all? Why would someone turn on the 10 o'clock newscast?" Gilbert asked. Without asking these questions, he says, a news organization will not be able to evolve with the times.
Explore alternative revenue
Journalism must remain the focal point, but other ways to keep the lights on must be considered. The Dallas Morning News publisher and CEO Jim Moroney said his paper has bought or started five companies to offset costs.
"You can have the integrated business model on one side, and that can be the brand," said David Skok, the director of digital at Global News in Canada. "But then you can have the disruptive businesses on the other side, and those can have unique brands as well. It is not an either/or."
Don't let storytelling suffer
It's important for outlets to experiment with digital tools and alternative storytelling. But it's also important not to stray too far from the basics of good storytelling, according to New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson. Match each story with the platform that complements it best, she said. "There are certain stories that I think are made for this kind of rich narrative multimedia storytelling," Abramson said. "In general, those are ones that have intense characters, that have a narrative spine where something unfolds and that lend itself to the particular technology that you are using."
Train the next generation
Ensuring that journalists are properly equipped to handle digital change begins in journalism schools, said Columbia University's Emily Bell. Young reporters should be trained in areas including data analysis, statistics and programming, and be taught the value of specialized knowledge.
NPR senior digital strategist Andy Carvin said students must be taught how to promote, defend and be accountable for their work on social media, and how to engage individually with readers. "By engagement, I mean, why don't we use these incredibly powerful tools to talk with them, listen to them and help us all understand the world a little better?" Carvin said. "We now report in a networked world. We can no longer afford to underplay the public's role in propagating information."
Read Robinson's full post on MediaShift.
Image CC-licensed on Flickr, courtesy of starmanseries