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Journalism

Interview | The Future of Journalism in the 21st Century

Suzanne Popovich Chandler is a broadcast and photojournalist who has been in journalism business for 35 years. She freelanced extensively for the ABC, NBC, and CBS networks including, 60 Minutes, America’s Most Wanted, Dateline and ESPN, and has been awarded numerous awards as a professional photographer.

As traditional newsrooms and editorial controls slowly vanish, the enforcers of journalistic standards are the audience. Today, colleges and universities offer variety of degree programs in print journalism, yet the question remains, if colleges should continue teaching programs in print concentration, since online journalism it taking over the world.

With the growing popularity of the Internet, gone are the days of print-only or TV-only newsrooms. Media companies no longer have to wait for the evening broadcast or tomorrow’s edition to report the news.

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VIEW FROM ABOVE: “You can’t have as powerful reports without pictures or visual media.” Suzanne Chandler [Photo courtesy Suzanne Chandler]
Irma Laliashvili: You’ve been in broadcast journalism and photojournalism for 35 years, freelanced extensively for ABC, NBC CBS networks including, 60 Minutes, America’s Most Wanted, Dateline and ESPN, and have been awarded numerous awards as a professional photographer. In your opinion, what does the future of journalism in the digital age hold for aspiring journalists today?

Suzanne Chandler: The future of journalism is exciting in the 21st Century! Aspiring journalists today have abundant opportunities to communicate and interact with mass audiences – much more than what I had when I was first starting out in the business in 1981. Back then in broadcasting for example, there were three main networks. To get to work on one of the “ BIG 3” was extremely competitive.  Today we have hundreds of channels and an Internet full of online journalism. There are numerous opportunities and platforms for journalists to communicate with mass audiences.

The interactivity of today’s digital world is extremely useful to today’s journalist. For example, we can hear right away from those we communicate with, and the public – at one time our “ audience” can now contribute to the reporting of news. Reporting is no longer linear. It is interactive. Today we can serve the public even more by having instant feedback. We can find out how we are doing, and if we are getting the story right.  21st century Journalists can find out immediately if we are covering the issues that matter the most to the public.

IL: Plenty of people say newspapers will never die because people love the feel of newsprint. So if touch is so powerful, why are newspapers closing?

SC: Cost is the biggest reason newspapers are closing. Craig’s list took away classified ad revenue as you know and recently the Chicago sun fired all their photojournalists. My opinion is you cant have as powerful reports without pictures or visual media so those newspapers who don’t embrace the importance of visuals will find their audiences diminishing Perhaps local; small papers will stay in print so readers can keep the feel of he newsprint but in general people are beginning to feel better about reading entire books online. Why not news stories as well? KIDS are growing u with Ipads in front of them not news print so I see less and less newsprint and more online reports.

I however DO believe specialty magazines and tabletop books   with gorgeous print photos will always be around.

IL: What skills do big print publications such as Coned Nast and Hearst look for in ambitious aspiring reporters today?

SC: I can’t say for sure with these two publications you mention, but I believe most publications are looking for and needing journalists with multiple skills. They want journalists to know how to write, shoot still and video images and use social media. One of my friends was a writer for Islands magazine. When I met him he was taking Photo classes because they wanted the same person to take the photos of the location as well as write the story. This way the reporter could make the additional money they photographer made AND the magazine did not have to pay for additional travel costs for 2 people.

In the past there often was a writer AND a photographer. 2 travel costs. In this circumstance for islands magazine the writer needed to write and shoot. I think we are seeing more journalists getting jobs when they have a variety of skills to offer their employers. Budgets are down and there are so MANY outlets for stories. This means journalists need a variety of skills and need to adapt to be successful.

IL: Should bloggers adhere to journalistic standards when they publish information, even if they’re not trained journalists? 

SC: I believe if bloggers are transparent about the purpose of their blog, then following an SPJ Code of Ethics is NOT always what they HAVE to do. Editorials and opinion have always had their place in communication. As long as they represent their work as what it is then fine. What I DON”T like is when bloggers or any reporters present themselves as unbiased and then don’t cover the other viewpoint, or check for accuracy. When they have an agenda they are hiding that really bothers me.

If the audience does not know the difference between trained journalists and everyday contributors, one concern of mine is that the non-professionals are taking away the job of trained professionals.

In the end, this is really up to the public. The public has he power to keep journalists in business by simply watching or reading their work. Journalists have the power of keeping jobs by earning the public’s trust through a variety of multimedia skills and being adaptable and versatile. Of course I DO believe accuracy is important in blogs and checking sources for accuracy is very important.  Knowing media law and the difference between making up stories and presenting it as news is wrong. But not all bloggers have to be accurate as long as they honest that they are writing fiction or stating opinion. I believe the audience will learn how to distinguish between those who have integrity and those who don’t.  Learning visual literacy and Being critical of HOW the news is gathered and reported is precisely what I teach in my classes.

IL: Who will emerge as the enforcer(s) of journalistic standards as traditional newsrooms and editorial controls vanish?

SC: The audience – the public – has the power to make journalists earn their trust with accurate reporting. period. I don’t believe ALL traditional newsrooms and editors are vanishing. They aren’t. My last class took a tour to the TV station I used to work at -KMGH TV- and they noticed that there are editor’s producer’s newsrooms alive and well -just as there always have been.

Print journalism IS different. They have to adapt.  Newsprint is expensive to provide on a daily basis and is outdated as soon as it is printed. I am certain New York Times Washington Post – the big papers- DO have newsrooms, editors etc. Their success?? They have embraced their websites and multimedia. That is the key. Yes papers have suffered. We lost a 100-year-old paper in Denver and recently the Chicago tribune fired all their photographers. But guess what? Many of the paper reporters have landed jobs in TV. And there are plenty of jobs in corporate communications and PR.

Good reporting is good reporting. Newspapers need to adapt and use the versatility of the Internet and social media and adhere to SPJ code of ethics and earn he public’s trust in a new medium. Good storytelling is what is important. With out ad revenue, papers need to jump with all they have to multimedia.  Accurate online reporting.  The profession of journalism will survive as we Report across platforms including the use of all social media technologies.

IL: If newspapers are struggling to generate print ad revenue, will they have any more luck generating online ad revenue?

SC: They are doing it already. As much as readers hate the pop up ads for example the ads are paying for the coverage of the news. Print papers are expanding and asking for subscriptions. The big papers with the big reputations – such as New York times, Washington post – They ARE getting the subscription revenue too and have some pretty competitive online websites.

What I believe newspapers need to do is invest in reinventing themselves. Be flexible. Embrace online journalism.  Hire the best multimedia journalists, commit to telling really good investigative stories and add some good news stories in the mix too. Listen to the public. If they don’t trust the media, do everything in your power to earn that trust and MARKET yourself as the media you can trust.

It is also ok in my opinion to be transparent and to do “agenda journalism” from a particular viewpoint.  When I don’t agree is when they aren’t honest about their agenda. They should NOT represent themselves as unbiased news. I love having the variety of viewpoints as long as journalists are honest with where they are coming from – with their agenda.

IL: Should colleges and universities still offer degree programs in print journalism?

SC: This is a very good question. They need to offer degrees and teach the importance of CONVERGING journalism. They need to have print be a part of the program but if print is all they are teaching I believe they are doing a disservice to the students. Students will always need to know how to write well. They will always need to know how to interview objectively. They will always need to know how to research a subject and look for a variety of viewpoints and if there is an agenda in the interview. But we can’t stop with only teaching print standards. For students to actually get jobs they have to know a variety of skills. MULTIMEDIA skills. They need to know how to write for print and online, AND they need to know how to make videos for the web. They need to know how to shoot good pictures for the web and if there is a print publication, they need to know how to write accurate reports that are interesting.

IL: Will TV news programs one day suffer the same fate as newspapers?

SC: No I do not believe TV programs will go away. Yes, TV budgets have been cut. And yes there are more TV programs to compete with. The big 3 networks just don’t have the market all to themselves as they once did but TV is already well versed in multimedia reporting so TV needs to continue to embrace an online presence.

As you learned in my class all the TV programs had websites. So I believe TV is at a great advantage because their people already have multimedia skills.

Newspapers don’t have to continue suffering their fate if they continue to adapt to multimedia and online reporting too.  They have some outstanding reporters and skills. They need to be flexible and know that the cost of newsprint is prohibitive and  – as much as we like it in our hands – reading a paper in your hands will never be at the heights it once was.

The key for aspiring journalists is to be versatile and have a variety of multimedia reporting skills whether you work at at newspaper, magazine radio or a TV station.

IL: Is there something I didn’t ask you or something you’d like to add?

SC: Yes, I’d like to add that Hopefully more students WILL take courses like the one I offered (Intro to Journalism), so students can learn to distinguish between good reporting and bad.

People need to demand that their reporters check sources for accuracy and then support their journalists by watching their programs or reading their websites, or publications. Students need to learn how to be that kind of journalist that has earned the public trust.

Unfortunately not as many students are taking “ journalism” classes. I think they think of it as only Print journalism and they might not have a job if newspapers are going out of business around the country.

The reality is that there is a bombardment of mass communication and information. Learning how media influences us is as important as it has ever been. There are Plenty of jobs in the media too Check sites like Andrew Hudson’s job site if you don’t believe me. The difference is that the jobs have changed away from print. That does not mean that people don’t need to be informed about their government or affairs or world around them.

People simply need to know where to go to get that information. And students therefore need to know how to gather accurate news with a variety if tools and then where to go to get the job.

I love the interactivity with the public. This helps journalists know what the public wants. Since we serve the public good it is great to get feedback as fast as we do in today’s digital age.

I believe we can keep the jobs in communication for aspiring journalists as the public learns the value of trained unbiased journalists from those who want to share opinion  -which may not be based in any fact at all.

This article originally appeared on Metro Post-Telegraph

And later re-appeared on Medium

For more information on Suzanne Popovich Chandler’s work, visit http://www.suzannechandlermedia.com.

Featured image: [Photo courtesy Suzanne Chandler]

By Irma Laliashvili

Irma Laliashvili is a lifestyle journalist and writer based in Denver, Colorado. She has been published in The Odyssey, The Metropolitan, Medium, and more. Irma holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She has a strong focus in editorial and digital media with concentrations in fashion, the arts, culture and travel. She loves writing long-form first-person lifestyle and opinion pieces, memoirs, as well as, shorter web content, news stories, and words on all things culture. Irma also runs a fashion and lifestyle blog called Irma’s Got Style. And is interested in reporting, writing and editing through freelance opportunities or permanent positions.

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