The profession of journalism has evolved from paper and pencil to iPads and laptops in the ever-changing digital age.
A panel of six journalists discussed the advantages and disadvantages facing modern journalism Monday during Speak Up, Speak Out’s ‘The End of Media as We Know It? Journalism in the Digital Age” forum.
The forum featured a six-person panel composed of Midland Daily News freelance writer Tracy Burton, Saginaw News reporter Lindsay Knake, Detroit News Capitol reporter and former Central Michigan Life editor-in-chief Chad Livengood, Detroit Free Press web editor and former CM Life editor-in-chief Brian Manzullo, journalism instructor and Morning Sun online editor Mark Ranzenberger and Redford senior and CM Life editor-in-chief Aaron McMann.
Many of the panelists said the Internet is a great tool for journalists, when combined with basic interviewing, writing and reporting skills.
“The reason people come to us as newspapers is because they trust us,” Ranzenberger said. “The way we earn that trust is knowing what we are talking about as journalists. The most ethical thing a journalist can do is know about what they are writing about. The people who are foolish and don’t earn that trust and are consistently wrong aren’t going to be (in the industry) too long.”
Knake echoed Ranzenberger and cautioned young journalists about using Twitter to find news stories.
“As journalists, we have to be careful about using Twitter,” she said. “Even if credible sources are reporting something, journalists have to be careful about breaking news.”
Burton also stressed the importance of good fact checking.
“It comes down to making sure that your sources are legitimate,” she said. “It goes back to the old-school days where you had to fact check and verify the information before you move forward and write the story.”
Many of the members of the panel praised new media for its ability to allow readers interact with news agencies.
Ranzenberger referred to sound-off boards and comment sections as the “sound of America.”
“This is what (readers) are talking about,” he said. “Would they write a letter to the editor? Of course they wouldn’t, because the paper would require them to sign their name to that. If we allow them to stay anonymous or just give their first name, they will give us the truth as they see it.”
Manzullo said it is key for news organizations to interact with their consumers.
“When (journalists) don’t comment (back), these comment boards turn into graffiti walls, because people think reporters don’t look at them because they don’t talk to them,” he said. “The people who comment think they aren’t being heard, so they can do whatever they want. I think it’s key for any news organization to interact with their viewers.”
Manzullo stressed the need for face-to-face interviews in this screen-based communication age.
“Nothing beats talking to people face-to-face,” Manzullo said. “New reporters like to start conducting interviews through email, and it kills me. You don’t build a reputation as a journalist through words on a screen, you still have to build relationships with people by setting up interviews and going to their office and talking to them.”
As for the future of print journalism, Livengood said it looks bright, as long as reporters are willing to work hard.
“Journalism can be saved through good journalism,” Livengood said. “It takes hard work like calling people and meeting face-to-face. It’s a matter of having the desire to tell a story. I see a great and bright future for journalism as long as there are people who are willing to think about things and ask questions about the world around them.”