Future jobs for journalists

In my travels, I encounter smart people who are really thinking about tomorrow, and I love to engage them in discussions. Here, culled from recent encounters, are some thoughts about four jobs that you’ll find in the not-so-distant (perhaps tomorrow) future:

  1. Editor — yes, editor, only not in the hierarchical sense of traditional newsrooms. This person will be responsible for tweaking all web content to make sure it aligns with the stated goals and purposes of the organization. This person will know and understand the intricacies of marketing and promotion and how every word in a web story — from the headline to the smallest detail — is important. In a world where reporters are firing back “content” from the field using whatever technology is best suited, mistakes are going to be made and pictures are going to need to be added. This will be the role of the editor, and it is especially crucial in a continuous news environment.

  2. Advertising producer — in a world where everyone is a media company, including advertisers, those “media companies” need producers, and this is where a lot of former traditional journalists will find work in the years to come. Each automobile on a car dealer’s lot, for example, is “content” for that company’s website. How will they be presented/produced? Who will do this work? Everything is a story and there’s conflict and resolution in everything.

  3. Discussion monitor — today’s participatory world requires monitoring by media companies that wish to exploit the conversation that is news in ways that will enhance their coverage of issues in the community. Today, most media companies see (and use) Twitter and Facebook as ways to get their messages out, but it’s the messages coming back in that are most important. We need somebody to monitor all of that, including the comments on stories or anything else we do, in order to claim to be a part of the conversation. So get as many followers as you can, yes, but also follow anybody you can find locally and monitor their messages.

  4. Live stream hub anchor — this person’s job will be an entire shift of live streaming the news day. Armed with access to reporters, editors, weather and sports anchors, and discussion monitors, this person will deliver a constant stream of live coverage throughout the day, beginning prior to and including the morning meeting. Live reports from the field via phoners or Skype, access to RSS feeds and wire services, chat and regular breaks will make up the stream. Users will come and go throughout the day, but the content stream will be consistent and moving forward.

I also believe that every content creator will have a blog, that news organizations will hire freelance independent journalists rather than paying all as employees, that news websites will organize information in such a way that users can create their own experience, that research will be continual, that the farm system for local news will be local, and that connecting businesses with consumers is the answer to how news gets funded downstream.

I believe lots of other things too, but if I told you them all, you’d have to pay me.

Pew report’s a stunner, but where’s it all headed?

To those of us who’ve been following the disruptive innovation known as the Internet for a long time, the latest “State of the News Media” report from the folks at Pew comes as no surprise. Nothing is shocking anymore, not even the brutally harsh tone of this report, “the bleakest” since Pew began issuing them annually six years ago.

I’ll spare you the numbers and the graphs, because they only look at where we’ve been and where we are. I’m more interested in where we’re going. I encourage you to go read the report for yourself, because it does paint a painfully accurate portrait of where we are in the community of journalism. More on that in a minute, but first, the report’s “six emerging trends:”

  1. The growing public debate over how to finance the news industry may well be focusing on the wrong remedies while other ideas go largely unexplored.
  2. Power is shifting to the individual journalist and away, by degrees, from journalistic institutions.
  3. On the Web, news organizations are focusing somewhat less on bringing audiences in and more on pushing content out.
  4. The concept of partnership, motivated in part by desperation, is becoming a major focus of news investment and it may offer prospects for the financial future of news.
  5. Even if cable news does not keep the audience gains of 2008, its rise is accelerating another change—the elevation of the minute-by-minute judgment in political journalism.
  6. In its campaign coverage, the press was more reactive and passive and less of an enterprising investigator of the candidates than it once was.

The Pew annual reports are excellent and very useful for media companies in the removal of the scales that hide the truth. The graphs will show up in PowerPoint presentations from coast-to-coast, as we all try and figure out what to do next, and that can be problematic when staring only at a “where we’ve been and where we are” perspective. Research is based on what has already happened, and if you follow those trend lines, you’ll end up on-the-street. The report says “reinvent” in a few places, but it can’t give any direction there, other than to report on “emerging trends.” This is not to be critical of the work — it’s outstanding — but rather of the shortcomings of constantly looking backwards.

I have only my crystal ball (Fred doesn’t believe in such), but here’s what it’s showing me:

  1. It’s gone and it’s not coming back. Acceptance of this is the beginning of reinvention.
  2. Future revenue is about enabling commerce, not about serving advertising adjacent to or as an interruption of “content.”
  3. Journalism will survive the death of its institutions (thanks, Lisa).
  4. Most journalists will be independent and work for whoever pays them the most, on a non-exclusive basis.
  5. Journalists will develop and exploit niche specialties.
  6. The News” will be fast, transparent and authentic.
  7. Anchors will become mostly obsolete, like other middlemen that the Web routes around. I simply can read faster than I can have it read to me. Those that remain will be live hubs that filter multiple content inputs.

There will be nothing passive about the news experience of tomorrow, neither from the gathering and presentation end, nor the consumption end, and this means it’s going to be a lot of work. But work will be rewarded, and new institutions and hierarchies will be built.

Of course, I could be wrong.

The personal media revolution in one picture

This amazing picture is worth more than a thousand words I could write about how much things have changed in just a few short years. How many potential citizen journalists here? Everybody. UPDATE: Ryan rightly notes in the comments that this was at the Youth Ball.

Nobody is watching. They are all taking pictures and making videos

Quote of the day

Slate’s Jack Shafer writes “Not Just Another Column About Blogging.”

If newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters don’t produce spectacular news coverage no blogger can match, they have no right to survive.

Amen to that, and I should add that this column is an extremely worthwhile read, an excellent summary of how personal media’s Gutenberg moment has disrupted the status quo of professional media.

Welcome to the 21st Century, Defense Minister

Robin Waulters has an excellent post over at TechCrunch this morning about the troubles of Belgian Minister of Defense Pieter De Crem, who ran into a blogger at a Belgian pub in New York on Monday. De Crem and several aides came to New York, even though the U.N. conference for which the trip was planned had been cancelled. He ended up getting completely soused at the pub.

Following his visit, bartender Nathalie Lubbe Bakker blogged about their visit (in Dutch), talking about how disgusted she was of how drunk De Crem was and how embarrased she was about his behavior. Worst part, she wrote, was the fact that one of the politician’s advisors admitted to her that the meetings they were there for on taxpayer’s money were in fact cancelled because the UN was meeting in Geneva (which is about 330 miles from Brussels). He reportedly told her they had decided to come to NY anyway despite being aware of the cancellation because the policital situation here was ‘calm’ and that he’d ‘never visited the city anyway’.

Somebody from De Crem’s office called the pub later and Bakker was fired, which didn’t go over very well with the Belgian blogosphere (and it shouldn’t go over very well here, either). De Crem then made a complete ass of himself in Parliament by playing the victim.

I want to take this opportunity and use this non-event to signal a dangerous phenomenon in our society. We live in a time where everybody is free to publish whatever he or she wants on blogs at will without taking any responsibility. This exceeds mud-slinging. Together with you, other Parliament members and the government I find that it’s nearly impossible to defend yourself against this. Everyone of you is a potential victim. I would like to ask you to take a moment and think about this.

The only thing De Crem is a victim of is his own arrogance. The guy got caught on a taxpayer-funded folly to New York, and that’s what he’s really angry about. “Without taking any responsibility?” How so? Bakker is the one who got fired, another martyr in the war of everyday people against the institutions of power. And I would argue that this is the role of the press, the institution of which wasn’t present at the time. Had someone with an official press card been there, I suspect the outcome would’ve been the same.

Except the reporter wouldn’t have gotten fired.

Paris Hilton “ad” reveals how much media has changed

The video below is an “ad” currently making the rounds online. It’s Paris Hilton jumping at the opportunity to be herself in response to the dumb move by John McCain’s campaign to use an image of Miss Hilton in a campaign ad comparing Barack Obama to other celebrities. The observations so far have all been political or from the entertainment press, but I think there’s a huge comment to be made about media here.

But first, the video:


In today’s world, everybody is a media company. I’ve been preaching that lesson for almost 10 years now. It’s the essence of J.D. Lasica’s seminal book, Darknet: Hollywood’s War on the Digital Generation, in which he coined the phrase “personal media revolution.” This video by Miss Hilton is a stunning example of that, because she is, among other things, a media company, and, like everybody else, has the resources to put cute little videos out into cyberspace where they can be picked up by others and passed around. In so doing, Paris Hilton has injected herself into the race for President of the United States, or I suppose you could say that McCain did that for her. And here’s the thing: this video is actually more than just cute or funny.

Candidates have to buy time to get their messages out, while everyday people — using back channels — can do the same thing for nothing. I realize this is Paris Hilton and that she carries leverage that others don’t have, but you’d be missing the point to dismiss the bigger picture here. As Gordon Borrell so beautifully put it, “The deer now have guns,” and we need to pay attention to that.

From a postmodern perspective, this incident shows how people are able to participate in the political process in ways never before possible, and it is changing — and will change — things forever.