Some say journalism is dying. Others just say it’s dead.
They say that now. They said that three years ago when I was trying to figure out which journalism school to attend. They warned me that I was headed down a path with no future.
Those people are wrong.
I don’t want to sit here and relive the glory days of newspapers and families gathered around radios. Though those times certainly have important lessons to tell, the romanticizing of that period has to stop so that we can move forward. And while these sentiments are my own, I have certainly heard them echoed by many of my peers and colleagues.
The Reese News Lab is centered around the idea of journalism in the current age. We focus on new media ideas and how to make them sustainable. When people come in to talk to us, the majority of the time they’ll bring up newspapers and they’ll want to talk about and dwell on how terribly sad the current state of journalism is.
“It’s assumed that because we’re post-apocalyptic we just sit around and talk about the apocalypse,” said Hetali Lodaya, a summer STEMwire reporter.
Reese News Lab is, as Lodaya said, post-apocalyptic in the sense that what it does is nontraditional. All of the reporting work Reese News Lab has done was online and kept mobile in mind. Now we have moved from content creation to testing new media products and business strategies.
And yet, whenever people stop in they want to discuss the past. “It reminds me of when people glorify the ‘50s,” said Hannah Wang, junior English major and Reese News Lab staff member. She said there’s “this image of well-dressed people reading newspapers, but the reality is that a lot of people have never had the time or money for that.”
Wang acknowledges that the traditional forms of journalism may be suffering, but says that the consumer base is still around and benefits from new media technologies.
“Journalism as a concept is not what it was 50 to 60 years ago. It’s something new and it will continue to evolve,” said Reese News Lab Programmer Meghan Horton.
Benefits of new media
While the Internet has caused problems for traditional media sources, it has made the news much more accessible and serves as the foundation for new media products.
“We have an international coffee shop on the Internet,” Wang said. People who might not have had access to news before the Internet can now consume information from all kinds of different places.
Another benefit for consumers is the ability for smaller media organizations to compete in the Internet age, “It’s almost like a blank slate,” Lodaya said. “‘Small’ actors and groups of individual readers have a lot to say about what journalism is going to look like in the coming years.”
The benefits of the Internet to the media consumer are obvious, but the benefits to the industry are often glossed over. It is true that, in the Internet age, it’s harder for the media industry to bring in revenue. But much of that is due to the fact that the industry has tried to make traditional revenue models transfer online. The old models aren’t working, money is being lost, so people say that journalism is dying.
That’s why Reese News Lab has turned its focus to testing the feasibility, desirability and viability of unique media products. While these products are being pitched and discussed, a variety of both content and revenue creation topics come up.
It also is difficult to separate industry and consumer benefits. Quality journalism costs money, and if consumers aren’t willing to pay, the quality of the news they receive is going to be less than spectacular. It’s thus important, to both journalists and consumers, that the media industry come up with new ways to generate revenue and keep up with technology changes. None of that will happen until the industry breaks with the obsession of reliving the past.
Just by walking into Reese News Lab, you can tell that young journalists and students are excited and ready to tackle these challenges.
“I think that it’s true that old-fashioned journalism is dead but I’m still excited to be entering into the industry, because it’s evolving and changing constantly,” said Caroline James, Reese News Lab staffer.