As dark and gloomy as it may be, the newspaper industry is never dull.
As newspapers continue to struggle to see another day, there has been recent speculation about the dramatic shifts poised to take place. As publishers cut back on print editions, sometimes even altogether halting them, they are turning to digital media to carry the load. The Christian Science Monitor, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Denver's Rocky Mountain News and the Tuscon Citizen exist purely in online formats.
The All Digital Newsroom
As we watch print editions disappear, a digital news operation emerges. What shape it will take and how it will thrive remains to be seen. In the meantime, Editor & Publisher's Steve Outing has some ideas.
Smaller but Mightier
Without a print edition, newsrooms will shrink, inevitably. Outing thinks that "for a large newsroom, a lot of journalists will lose their jobs, perhaps one-half to two-thirds. A leaner news operation will probably mean a significant thinning of newsroom middle-management ranks. A smaller advertising department is likely."
Yet those who remain will be those who understand and have an enthusiasm for "new forms of media and storytelling". Outing imagines that the transformed newsroom will be filled with:
"multi-functional journalists who are comfortable carrying around a digital camera and tiny video camera; who make it part of their routine to record audio for possible use in podcasts or multimedia project sound clips; who are regular users of social networks and understand how to leverage them to communicate with and attract new readers, and share some personal information about themselves as well as promote their work; and who are comfortable and willing to put in the time to engage and communicate with their readers or viewers, including participating in reader comment threads accompanying their stories".
Fewer Journalists, More Bloggers
Outing also thinks that reporters will become bloggers, producing several levels of coverage on his/her topic or beat, with no deadlines. Articles would be published online and out to readers through mobile and other digital channels immediately after editing.
The point isn't to exhaust the reporter, but allow him to share insights and extras that don't make it into the feature article. Outing's hope is that "every journalist is a personality, not just an anonymous byline".
As journalists become well-versed in social and digital media, writing and blogging, they will in turn, according to Outing, find themselves a part of an online community of loyal fans and followers. From Facebook to Twitter, the digital newsroom is able to engage readers not just with their top content, but also with their web 2.0 tools.
If Outing's projections are accurate, the traditional print journalist will have morphed into a multi-tasking digital online super star. Those eager to jump on board, thumbs a-twittering and digital cameras shuttering, will thrive in this active 24-hour news world.
As newspapers get leaner, their approach needs to get meaner. If the economy demands that we all do more with less, the digital journalist is on the road to success.
The Web-Only Pulitzer
The all-digital newsroom's transformation need not take away from the prestige and traditions in which their former print editions participated. If anything, their new found diligence and pluckiness might just afford them more hardware than in the past.
On April 20, the list of newspapers and journalists awarded Pulitzer Prizes will be announced. This year, many of the submitted entries include online-only news media. From the St. Louis Beacon to ProPublica to the Voice of San Diego, online-only sites will be competing against traditional news outlets.
Scott Lewis, CEO of Voice of San Diego is understanding if some traditional news outlets do not want online newsrooms to compete, but does not believe that will limit their chances. "I think we will be judged fairly and I think it will be exciting," he added. "There is this view by some that online is somehow tainted, but I think we are destroying that myth."