Originally Published June, 2012
The days of print journalism are over it seems as we embark the digital and social media era. Newspapers serve a new purpose to society; disposable mats when painting the house, a main component for paper-maché projects, ideal for wrapping fragile glassware when moving, or perfect stuffing for store owners to use in purses and bags on display.
As an aspiring journalist it pains me to watch the print industry suffer this slow and painful death.
When I started the University of Guelph-Humber, I was promised that third year media students would get to write for the “Radix”, the university’s student paper. Upon entering third year I was shocked to see that the Radix was now an online paper and that they ended the print version following the 2011 winter semester due to low readership.
When I asked media studies program head Jerry Chomyn about this sudden change he explained that digital paper is a way of the future and that newspapers where a thing in the past. The university would spend X amount of dollars printing thousands of copies of the paper, only to throw or recycle them the next day. It was a waste of time and money to have the paper printed.
He explained that with digital students can access the paper at home, at school, on their phones, wherever they go. Also student journalists can upload stories instantly as soon as they happen, and make changes, edit and update past stories without having to wait for it to be printed which by then it would be old news. Radix online, is promised to permit more flexibility in reporting news by allowing integration of video and, potentially, new forms and ways of telling a story.
I was really disappointed because I wanted to see my byline in print, but was soon reassured by Chomyn that I would still get recognition despite the paper being online. With my story online, he explained, it’s there forever for the world to see. When it’s in print it’s there for a short time for only the school to see. He said that he was taking the media program in the 21st century and out of the 20th century. Leaving the paper in print says that we are “old fashioned”. Chomyn predicts that that within five years, little of what we see will be on paper.
If the wiping out of print happened in our little school community on a small level, then I must conclude that it is happening around the world on a larger level.
Recently, Postmedia Network Canada Corp., the owner of several big-city daily papers across the country, said it will eliminate the Sunday editions of certain titles and fast-track a shift toward online distribution.
Post media, along with others in the sector has struggled to sustain its revenue in a fast-changing media environment. The result is mass newsroom job losses from Vancouver to Montreal.
The goal is to raise digital subscription to offset declines in traditional print revenue. This industry wide push started over a year ago when The New York Times’ launched their digital model that requires readers to pay after a certain number of visits. This has attracted a substation number of subscribers.
Let’s face it. People are lazy. They want convenience and they want it in a timely manner. Who has time now-days to sit and read the whole paper when you can just scroll through your twitter feed on your phone, or pop up the Toronto star on your work computer, or even read trending articles on Facebook? What makes the situation sad is that ANYONE can be a journalist with digital media. Basically if you have a blog you are a journalist. So how can aspiring journalist survive and get a fulfilling PAID job in this industry? After talking to a few of my professors I have come up with some tips on how to survive:
- The industry is changing, and it’s something that all aspiring journalists must accept and adapt to. Journalists must now be multi-dynamic in order to survive this industry.
- They not only be a good writer but also take on a different spin to a story. Cover the story through a perspective that makes it a completely new story.
- You must also be good at editing and shooting video. With an unlimited source of information pouring into readers you must provide them with something that will stand out. Video journalism can be key to getting an inside look at an issue that most bloggers or tweeters cannot provide.
- You must have a good eye for photography. As the old saying goes, a picture is work a thousand words. One powerful image can tell a tale l that no words can express.
- Digital and web design skills is a must. Journalism changes with technology. Take a look at history. 1st we had the Gutenberg printing press, then radio, then television and now the world wide web. If any journalist wants to succeed they must know how to produce online content in an instant.
- At lastly networking. Going to events in the city, press conferences, befriending those in the industry, just basically getting your name out there will help you get ahead of the game.
Although the print industry’s end is near, there is still hope for those pursuing a career in journalism.