It’s now generally accepted that journalism is changing. Readers are no longer solely reliant on newspapers for news, Twitter has accelerated the news cycle to the point where news is broken just about every minute of the day, and youngsters are growing up in a world where they no longer choose a news provider, the news comes to them, wherever they are.
Obviously it’s a huge challenge being a publisher in this environment. But it’s also pretty tricky being a journalist.
The journalist’s role is changing rapidly and soon many of the traditional journalist skills will not only be irrelevant but many new roles will begin to emerge. It’s not a new trend. The history of media is a history of change. Countless jobs once deemed vital to producing a newspaper now no longer exist because technology has made them redundant. Think of the original hot metal typesetters, the plate makers, the dedicated page make-up artists before that became the role of sub-editors.
The truth is that over the coming years many journalists will take on many roles, some of which may not yet exist. Sustainable Journalism has published a thought-provoking list of 11 journalism jobs that could exist in the near future.
That list is very wide-ranging and covers a lot of ground. This is my simplified list of the top five roles I believe to be crucial to the future of newsrooms and which ought to be considered by all news organisations.
An important job of writing catchy headlines that will attract clicks and readers. Traditionally news organisations had subs and editors that performed this role but they were gradually sidelined by the march of technology. Now the pressure of attracting readers online will hopefully create a new gap for this expertise. Even print-first operations ought to be targeting this area as they struggle to maintain sales. Of course this is a role that could be performed by the chief-sub but it seems clear that in many newsrooms that role is dying out and even subs are liable to be victims of change.
Social media editor
The social media editor will be tasked with making sense of the social media noise and searching for opportunities in that. The social media reporter will also be required to verify social media allegations as well as engage with readers to build relationships with the paper.
Data journalists will be employed to mine vast amounts of public data to illustrate and reinforce editorial as well as unearth new story ideas in the otherwise impenetrable mound. Data journalists may well also be used to mine newspaper archives for new opportunities.
A new role which will monitor all other media sources to create engaging summaries which can be used to enhance in-house reporting. Staff cuts mean that not every news story can be covered by a dedicated reporter and many events that are extensively covered by other media could just as well be covered in curated form on pages rather than by an in-house journalist.
The explainer journalist role will become an increasingly important role as news organisations strive to explain increasingly complex issues to readers. I’ve written about this before but in its simplest form the explainer journalist will compile background pieces, timelines and historical data to make sense of current issues for readers. Often major news events may only manifest now but their historical underpinnings are important to understanding, and by explaining the background to events news organisations are able to keep readers engaged. For more on this idea read this.