It was a momentous day today when I read the final Evening Standard column by Roy Greenlade. In the article he went through charting an amazing transformation in the media over the past 10 years. We have gone from a society dominated by the printed daily newspaper with a 12million circulation, to a disparate consumption of media through a range of online developments including the rise of social media. Latest figures have shown the national print media have seen their circulation halved, which is a shocking statistic.
He ends his column with a plea to ensure that journalism remains as it has a vital role to play in a democracy. Who can argue with that? Well, I wonder whether we have to accept the changing nature of what constitutes journalism. In the modern world we can all become journalists reporting news and events that we see unfolding in front of us. You can now produce a decent video package just using your phone and we are all able to become our own columnists by blogging.
What role does the trained reporter have in this era of the citizen journalist? One thing they have is a newssense. They know what makes a good story and how to exploit it. This isn’t something that we all have, as you can see with the posts about people’s meals and trivia of daily life. We can clutter up the social media timelines easily with things of no interest, which is fine as an individual but not acceptable for a business.
Journalists should also have a good knowledge of the law and particularly know what is, and is not, within the law. I get incredibly frustrated when journalists are asking press officers and others for help for what should be basic media law knowledge. I can understand why untrained members of the public get themselves in hot water for commenting on live court cases. It is why when we sign up to social media networks I think there should be a short training package to complete which would mean people had clear guidance. For now, we just need to encourage those using the networks to help each other.
Finally, journalists can write or broadcast. They can simplify complex subjects, ask searching questions and get to the heart of an issue. Of course, there are lots of people who can do some of those things; they can ask questions; they can write but they don’t necessarily possess all the skills required.
I have to confess as a trained journalist who started my career on local newspapers I don’t want to see the printed newspaper disappear. But more than that I don’t want to see the role of the reporter confined to the pages of the history books. On this I agree with Roy Greenslade, journalism must survive for the benefit of society now and future generations.