As the co-editor-in-chief of my high school's journalism program and a soon-to-be college journalism major, by far the most common question I'm asked is "Isn't journalism dying? How are you going to get a job?" This is my answer:
Journalism is not dying. It's evolving and journalists need to evolve with it.
As a high school senior without professional journalism experience, I realize that I'm far from the most qualified person to make that statement. However, after learning journalism for four years and attending three national high school journalism conventions and workshops with thousands of other students creating media, I've seen firsthand the enthusiasm that many of my peers across the country still have for the craft of telling stories.
Even in the relatively short time period during which I've been studying journalism, many things have changed. The New York Times revolutionized digital storytelling with "Snow Fall." Twitter has become commonplace across mainstream society, especially in my teenage peer group. Thanks to social media, I learned about the Boston Marathon bombing and Sandy Hook school shooting just minutes after they happened. News is coming faster and faster, and because of social media sharing, stories are available to more people than ever before. Journalism is alive.
However, I'm not sure I fully agree with the most common alternative opinion to the death of journalism, either: that this change is equivalent to growth, and there's never been a better time to enter the field. The reduction of traditional photographer and reporter positions and the closing of many large daily newspapers are both signs that either people don't want the same kind of stories they always have. Journalism as we know it is fading away, and right now the industry is in the process of reinventing itself. I don't think that's bad, but it creates a lot of uncertainty, especially for students like me.
Yes, it saddens me a little that I may never see my byline printed in a newspaper or have the job title of simply, "reporter." But at the same time, I'm excited. I have no idea what storytelling tools will be available by the time I graduate college, let alone in 20 years. I imagine that I will be able to tell stories in intriguing, interactive ways. I'm open to the changes I know will come and the opportunities I will have to learn.
To prepare myself for this evolving industry, I'm trying to learn as much as I can about different mediums and gain experience in different areas. My background lies in reporting and writing, and in high school I've gained experience with design and photography. I've also realized the value in learning digital journalism and coding to make myself a well-rounded storyteller. My journalism adviser, Mark Newton, has repeatedly encouraged our staff members to be good at everything and great at something, and I believe that's what journalists will need to do in the future. In fact, Newton, who is also the president of the Journalism Education Association, pushed his students to be more like real world journalists by converging independent media (a student news magazine, news website, yearbook and broadcast) into a converged program where all students produce all types of media.
It seems to me that the people lamenting the death of journalism are the ones who resist change and want journalism to stay the same as it has been for years -- but what industry hasn't changed in the last decade? Journalism has constantly been transforming, from traditional newspapers to radio to television to the Internet, and social media is just one of the latest channels for stories. If journalism has stayed alive with these past revolutionary developments, I'm confident that it will survive now.
Journalist and professor, Samuel G. Freedman, perfectly articulated my opinion on the future of journalism in his book Letters to a Young Journalist. "Personally, I have no doubt that journalism has as much of a future as a past," he said. "Human beings will keep wanting to know what's news. They'll keep wanting to hear a good story. They'll keep wanting to have a lucid explanation, a smart analysis, of the events around them. That stuff will never, ever go out of style."
I have no doubt that the forms of news media will continue to evolve, but I have faith that, as Freedman said, storytelling will never go out of style. This is what keeps journalism alive, but to keep themselves alive, journalists need to embrace change in their field.