The coming world of the multimedia journalist

Steven Hodson - Author

Jun. 15 2013, Updated 9:13 p.m. ET

We hear the scare tactics everyday. The news industry is tanking and the only way to save it is by returning to putting everything behind the paywall or instituting some sort of micro-payment schemes. News can’t survive by being given away for free is the mantra of the old school media companies.

News organizations after news organizations are crying the blues and cutting back on staff in order to keep the industry profitable enough for the owners and well placed editors. You would think that the coming news Armageddon will see the end of news as we know it.

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The problem is that this is a specious argument that is put forth in order to protect the status quo of the news delivery systems. News will never die. Seriously. News is something that happens around us every day, every minute and nothing we do will ever stop news from happening.

What will change is the way in which we get our news and this is what is scaring the shit out of the old guard of the news industry – because at its root news isn’t an industry, we have just been led to believe it is.

While the boardrooms of the old world media companies are struggling to maintain any control they can over their profits that feed their million dollar lifestyles there are journalists and reporters who are finding a whole new freedom that comes from being exactly that – reporters of the news as it is happening. They are finding new freedom in being able to create content that will outlast even the outmoded methods of our current news delivery systems.

Even as these dinosaurs of newsprint carry on about returning to behind the paywall long time journalists are say no to the idea. Case in point is Saul Friedman who has been writing a column for Newsday since 1996.

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Then he found out that Newsday, owned by Cablevision, would be returning its content back behind a paywall. It was a paywall that saw anyone other than a Cablevision and Newsday print subscriber having to pay $5 a week to access the site. This for Friedman was the breaking point and decided the time to quit had come. The idea of losing readership because of this paywall wasn’t acceptable to him.

Just as some journalists and reporters are deciding that the time is coming where they have to consider doing their job outside of the normal confines of a newspaper there are also a growing number of them that are looking to expand the way that they can keep on reporting on the news.

It is people like long time crime and court reporter Ron Sylvester who have seen the future of the business and realized that it is no longer just about the written word as published under some newspaper’s masthead. For Sylvester the role for journalists is going to become one of being a multi-media journalist where things like the written word are included with podcasts and videocasting.

As well it will mean being a part of the social media movement both as a way to promote one’s work as well as a way to find out about new stories that might be of interest. Journalist and reporters are becoming their own editors and ad departments. They are becoming their own sound man and videographers.

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In Sylvester’s case he is also lucky enough to be able to draw on the skills of like minded contemporaries for projects that exceed his abilities to properly cover a story. This is almost the beginnings of the independent mobile teams of experts who can react quickly and without having to deal with the bureaucracy of an established newsroom.

While there is plenty of room for the independent journalist maintaining their own blog or being a part of a larger one I think the real power of a new world of news delivery will come from people like Ron Sylvester and other like him who will utilize all the aspects of technology in order to bring the real news to their readers. It will be the news without the preconceived filters that established old media organizations dole out what they think we need to read.

Regardless of what the dinosaurs of news might have us believe with their scare tactics news will never stop being delivered – only the methods of delivery will change.


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