Will the profession of journalism be seen as strange by historians a hundred years from now, who might think it bizarre to have had a professional class that existed only to tell people about events they couldn’t see with their own eyes?
Or even in thirteen years’ time, by 2030 – will we still have journalists and media organisations as we know them today?
At the International Journalism Festival in Italy yesterday (6 April), a panel of speakers including George Brock, professor of journalism at City University London, Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed UK, and Gavin Sheridan, co-founder and chief executive of Vizlegal, discussed the changes in mindset the media industry should undergo to ensure its successful continuation.
“What is it that journalists have to do to entrench the belief in the value of what they do?“ Brock asked, pointing to three key approaches that would help along the way.
Managing the abundance of information
Journalists would have to think with a much wider perspective about the rebuilding of civic societies, and safeguarding a space for truth.
They would also need some humility about the value of their journalism in an environment where people have countless options for accessing news.
“We are in the business of the management of abundance. Journalism began in the management of scarcity.
“The perceived value of all information is bound to fall. Get over it.”
Finally, more agility is required. Aside from the financially secure and successful era of television news, every other era of journalism has been improvisational, volatile and filled with projects that did not work, he said.
Journalists should get used to threats, whether they come in the form of artificial intelligence or ad-blockers, accepting that they will be coming regularly, and thinking about the value their work is offering to any new community or on a new platform.
“There’s no hope for journalism if journalists go on doing a repetitive activity in what is merely an adaptive way.”
A more public discussion about the value of the work that journalists do as well as more transparency about how it is done should also be started.
“If all journalists are doing is talking to each other and their students about the value of information and the rest of the world doesn’t care, that’s going to be a problem,” he added.
“Journalists should worry and act not just about the value of information, but also about what people consider to be true and a safe space for it.”
The survival of news brands as we know them today
For Gibson, journalism will become more vocational.
“The world of journalism is not undersupplied. If everybody wants to do it and if everybody is able to do it, how do you find the good people and then reward them?”
She explained she previously thought there will be a handful of big news brands remaining in the future, but now thinks the media landscape is more likely to include hundreds of smaller brands.
The number of organisations people will be able to go to for content will grow massively, as will the number of people committing acts of journalism – and they will all have to support each other.
“The only way for the proper journalism to survive is if everyone works together in the ecosystem,” she said.
For Sheridan, the aspects of journalism that people find the most valuable have become clear after the US election, when outlets such as The New York Times have seen a notable growth in subscriber numbers. Those who signed up did so primarily for the work of the Washington team, the data team, and the investigations team, he said.
Taking the core services journalists can provide to the public and building revenue streams and products around them is a key part of becoming or remaining a successful media business in the years to come.
He cautioned against a sense of entitlement in journalists who work for the older media organisations. “Journalists, particularly the younger journalists… have to think about building businesses.”
How do you think journalism will change by the year 2030? Let us know on Twitter at @journalismnews.
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