PEJ Study: Internet ‘Profoundly’ Changing Journalism

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has released its latest report on the state of the news media, and the results seem fairly obvious: the Internet is “profoundly” changing journalism.

From the AP:

It was believed at one point that the Net would democratize the media, offering many new voices, stories and perspectives. Yet the news agenda actually seems to be narrowing, with many Web sites primarily packaging news that is produced elsewhere, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual State of the News Media report.

Also:

The news side of the business is dynamic, but the growing ability of news consumers to find what they want without being distracted by advertising is what’s making the industry go through some tough times.

And:

“Although the audience for traditional news is maintaining itself, the staff for many of these news organizations tend to be shrinking,” said Tom Rosenstiel, the project’s director. … A separate survey found journalists are, to a large degree, embracing the changes being thrust upon them. A majority say they like doing blogs and that they appreciate reader feedback on their stories. When they’re asked to do multimedia projects, most journalists find the experience enriching instead of feeling overworked, he said. The newsroom is increasingly being seen as the most experimental place in the business, the report found.

As Internet Editor of ArkansasBusiness.com since waaay back in 2000, I been able to see these changing taking shape first-hand. That latter point has been particularly challenging. It’s been difficult to train some print journalists to think in terms of new media. It’s also been hard to adjust from, say, a daily or weekly print schedule, to one that happens on an hour-by-hour, often minute-by-minute basis. Particularly when you pile Internet deadlines on top of existing print deadlines.

Add to that the opportunities to take advantage of more types of media on the Web (audio, video, slideshows), and the traditional print journalist has seen his or her jobs duties expand exponentially over the past 8 eight years.

That’s created the catch-22 that’s reflected in this latest PEJ report. While the Internet has offered all kinds of new ways to communicate with readers, it hasn’t yet reached the advertising critical mass that’s required to pay for it all. So newsrooms are being asked to do more with the same, or at the bigger daily newspapers, less.

Luckily, it appears, from this report, that most journalists have been happy to get involved in multimedia, finding it “enriching” instead of grueling. And obviously, as younger reporters, raised on all this multimedia, move into the ranks, working journalists will feel less put upon; satisfying all these new content demands will be second nature to them.

But the real crisis in journalism? PEJ says it’s juggling stories while trying to stand on multiple platforms. For us at Arkansas Business, that means we optimize stories for all manner of platforms. A hot story for our print edition might be posted online three days early, with extensive linking to our previous coverage and other informational sites online. That same story will be broadcast during our segments on KTHV-TV, Channel 11, rewritten and summarized for a general TV news audience. The online story will also appear in RSS feeds and e-newsletters, complete with a headlines — often radically different from the print counterpart — and summaries designed to quickly impart the basic news of the story and draw readers in. And finally, that story will be positioned in such a way as to be attractive to search engines, thereby riding high in Google organic and Google News searches.

It’s a great time to be in journalism. We can now to do more in print and online than ever before. We simply have to recognize that now is key point in the evolution of our business, and we must be prepared to meet all the challenges that come our way.

More on the study here.

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