08 December 2022
I think the movie “The Post” and this blog post certainly pose an interesting question about the idea of how the journalism industry operates in a world that is increasingly digitized.
It’s something that continues to evolve and change throughout the years, and as the prompt points out, 2023 will likely be a year in which advertisers decrease spending on the broadcast medium. That fact is particularly fascinating when you consider that the print industry nearly became extinct originally because of the internet and broadcast, and now broadcast is slowly trending in a similar direction because of the internet and digital media giants.
We as journalists aren’t naive to it. I worked as the assistant sports editor for the Liberty Champion, the official student newspaper of Liberty University, and they’ve become more and more active on facebook, instagram, and on their website despite them being the largest weekly circulating newspaper in Central Virginia.
Why is that? Because the world is becoming more and more digitized and the industry has to “get with the times”, so to speak.
What does all of this mean for community journalism though? It’s hard to say and I think it’s even harder to navigate the direction in which it will go in the coming years. Community journalism, even in 2022, is still massively important though. Being active in a community as a journalist goes further than being a national journalist.
I’m a sports fan, so naturally I like to think of sports analogies, but think of a beat-writer in sports. I’d like to think that Dejan Kovacevic, a beat-writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Steelers and Pirates, is more ingrained in the Pittsburgh community as a sports journalist than, say, Adam Schefter is. I say all of that just to reiterate that there still is an importance to community journalism despite all of the constant changes in the industry.
All of this brings up fascinating talking points, and Natalie Fenton writes in her book that “In the old days, you had to get up in the morning and read the newspaper, listen to the Today Program. Now, in addition to all of that we have to keep an eye on websites, blogs of others, just in case stories crop up. As on the internet what we have to contend with is hugely increased sources of information, (Fenton 2011).”
Everything she just said is correct, and while some might see that as a disadvantage 10 or 12 years ago, I really see it as a positive thing for the industry, even in community journalism. Think about it, before the turn of the century, a lot of journalists’ sources and stories came from things like phone books or other public records, but nowadays, we have access to so many different things that we can use to our advantage.
As far as a community journalist standpoint, social media and the internet give us a chance to ingrain ourselves into the community and make it easier to relay our stories to the people of the community. Because at the end of the day, you don’t have a community without people, and the best way to become a good community journalist is to tell the stories of the people in that community.
Not to get too off-track, but being in this community reporting class has been a huge blessing in that regard. Just the other day my partner and I got to go to a Christmas light show hosted by a Rustburg, Virginia, resident who has done it for the last 20+ years and is making the 2022 show his last. Being able to meet the different characters in each community is what makes community journalism so great and so impactful.
I also wouldn’t have been able to do a story like that if it weren’t for the world becoming more and more digitized and for the internet and social media. My partner and I simply scoured around the internet and on Facebook for potential story ideas and upcoming events in the area, and we found this particular light show.
The journalism industry is truly unlike any other when it comes to the constant revolving door of changes that we have had to make since the turn of the century. Just because things might constantly change doesn’t necessarily mean that each change is a bad one, it’s all about the perspective.
I think people are realizing that too and thus acknowledging the importance of community journalism, as the aforementioned Kovacevic reported at the conclusion of 2021 that his website, DK Pittsburgh Sports, had broken its previous record for clicks in the calendar year.
As I said before, I think people appreciate the camaraderie and the more intimate setting that community journalists provide. It’s not a shot at national journalists or national reporters and what they do, because they do a great job. You see it everywhere. Another sports analogy I like to think of is in baseball for example, a pitcher is naturally going to be closer and appreciate the pitching coach more than the head coach or manager.
With all of that being said, I think no matter how much the industry might change because of the digitization, community journalism will always hold a special place in the industry because of the appreciation people have for it regardless of the year.