Much of the information we consume nowadays is via pixels, not paper. The Internet is now over 20 years old, with 82 percent of the developed world connected according to the International Telecommunication Union. Many of the services we use everyday — such as Facebook and Twitter — have been around for at least 10 years.
“The social media revolution is not a revolution anymore,” Charlie Weaver, publisher of Emerald Media Group at the University of Oregon, said.
Love it or hate it, this new world of information is not going away. At this rate, more than seven billion people will have access to the Internet by 2035, according to data from the ITU. Instead of fighting progress, we need to discuss how to use digital media effectively.
One group that has really struggled to adapt to the digital landscape is news organizations. In the fragmented world of publishing platforms, retaining an audience is a challenge as readers have an ever-increasing deluge of information at their fingertips.
“Physical media has kind of a weird place on a college campus. You’re kind of in a bubble.”
—Tony Wagner, Digital Production Assistant for Marketplace
As a student news publication, The Torch also struggles with adjusting to digital media. We know we need to move forward, or risk being stuck in the past. In an effort to adapt to a digital-first workflow, several of our staffers attended the recent Associated Collegiate Press conference, which was held over the Feb. 18-21 weekend. Hundreds converged in Los Angeles to share ideas on how to be exceptional journalists, and at the same time transition to the web.
“Physical media has kind of a weird place on a college campus,” Tony Wagner, digital production assistant for Marketplace from American Public Media, said. “You’re kind of in a bubble.” People tend to be more apt to pick up a student newspaper or magazine, if nothing else for the novelty and a desire to be a part of the campus community, Wagner added.
There will always be a segment of readers who prefer a print product, but most people nowadays consume information in a digital form.
With half of all of Internet-using adults getting their news straight from their feeds on Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center, it’s important for news organizations to provide trusted information on these digital platforms. This is even more important for students, as unbiased information about their campus can be hard to find. Student news publications offer a source of information about campus life that is often neglected by other media, and is balanced by journalistic ethics and a student perspective.
For many, it’s not just access to information that is important, it’s also the voice and tone that the information conveys.
“Having personality is your brand as a writer, and people are going to follow you if they find you are interesting,” Devin Desjarlais, public relations manager for Omelet, said during a session on how to create a successful online presence.
In the drive to attract new readers, some publications forget that people ultimately want good content as much as they want it immediately, but just because McDonald’s offers salad doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
“It’s a culture of trying to get things online as soon as they happen but not sacrificing the quality of the product,” Ryan Hagen, reporter for the San Bernardino Sun, said.
Balancing those two goals can be tricky, and in some areas of journalism, the demand for posting information instantly has been trumping the merit of creating quality stories. This is a fine line, and staying true to the ethical standards of journalism should remain the number one priority.
“It’s a culture of trying to get things online as soon as they happen but not sacrificing the quality of the product.” — Ryan Hagen, Reporter for the San Bernardino Sun
Journalism programs that are teaching convergent media are now offering web development skills in their training programs, including programming and digital strategy.
The ability to do more than just write or photograph a story is crucial in this ever-evolving digital space. Almost everyone that we spoke to could not stress enough the importance of being able to do a little bit of everything.
“In the last year especially, we [at Marketplace] saw a lot of people getting poached by players that weren’t even in the mix a year and a half ago,” Wagner said, referring to how companies like Audible and Midroll Media are stealing away employees who have strong digital skill sets.
As the world becomes more invested in the digital space, a diversity of skills will be necessary for everyone, not just journalists. From writing, to photography and web design, to humor and many others, it is critical to have a multifaceted skillset.
As the student media of Lane Community College, The Torch is committed to making the transition to a digital-first publication. Not only to provide valuable information about our campus where people read it most, but also to provide a learning lab for those who wish to learn these skills.
The Torch will evolve and will always be relevant, because there will always be an important story to tell about our campus community.