On Feb. 26, members of The Torch editorial board attended the Associated Collegiate Press annual national convention at the Sheraton Universal Studios Hollywood.
Hundreds of journalism students from all over the country spent four days attending specialist sessions, critiques, workshops, keynote addresses and more. With as many as six or seven sessions to choose from in any given hour, the event offered learning in diverse subjects and a broad range of speakers and valuable insights into the profession.
Spreading trusted information through traditional print newspapers is dying, at least under the current profit-based model. Even as many large newspapers transition to digital, attempts at generating revenue online to pay journalists have only seen modest gains. Combine financial woes with the expectations of current Internet citizens, who expect free access to information and news, and you get an industry lost at sea.
With news outlets struggling to adapt to the digital landscape, it’s hard not to wonder where people will find reliable and trusted information in the decades to come. Underneath many conversations at the ACP convention was a palpable fear concerning the future of journalism, though no one denied its importance to society.
To make matters worse, many people distrust the media at large. Negative public opinion of the press is at an all time high, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey. This is unlikely to change anytime soon, especially after the recent scandal involving long-time NBC reporter Brian Williams.
The topic of public trust came up several times at the ACP Convention. “Every day you have a chance to regain this trust or lose some of it, and unfortunately the whole industry suffers when there is a high profile scandal or crisis like there has been with Brian Williams,” Brian Stelter, senior media correspondent for CNN, said.
Building trust is difficult, but not impossible. Despite frustration with the press, people still trust news organizations more than the government and corporations, according to that same Pew survey. This gives me hope that the spirit of journalism will survive and that people invested in truth and integrity will continue to keep the populace informed.
Where’s the money?
So, what’s next for journalism? Many at the convention hailed social media as the solution. Can Twitter, YouTube, and Flipboard really solve the issues the press has been struggling with? I don’t think so.
Artists will be the first to tell you that doing what you love doesn’t always put food on the table. Even though journalists serve a vital function in society, they still need to get paid.
YouTube is the most promising social media platform for journalists. Their “partner program” pays content creators a percentage of ad revenue generated from their channels. This makes living off posting YouTube videos possible, if you’re lucky.
YouTube is not specific with their statistics, but from their press room they say that “millions” of channels on YouTube are earning money from their partner program. Of those channels, only “thousands” make six figures a year, much of which undoubtedly goes to taxes and production costs.
The jury is still out as to how, and where, journalism will survive. Print news is dying, and digital platforms have not yet revealed a place for trusted news to call home. My guess is that it doesn’t exist yet, and that it is up to today’s youth to design the solution.