Financial crisis, digital revolution, crumbling media companies – these are shaky days for media and everyone involved in the field. How can journalism students make sense of it all?
I asked several of the speakers and participants at the Digital News Affairs conference in Brussels one question: What is the best piece of advice you will give to journalism students in the middle of this upheaval? Here is what they want you to focus on:
Ben Hammersley, editor, Wired Magazine: Everything comes down to being able to write well. Before you write well, forget Facebook, Twitter, etc. And you learn to write well by reading lots of good stuff and write a lot yourself. And find a good editor!
Alexandros Koronakis, editor of New Europe: After listening to this conference, I would suggest you change your major, start studying something else than journalism! The journalist profession will be overrun by semiprofessionals and amateurs. There will be a lot of quantity, not necessarily so much quality. I’m very pessimistic from what I’ve heard. As a journalist, you have to be able to adapt to what is going on. And the journalism studies also have to adopt, but obviously, that will take some time.
Jodi Williams, part of Barack Obama’s press team, now at Premier Digital Services: Journalists have to remain flexible and be open for new opportunities and creative ways to work. The opportunities might not be what they appear to be. Media will change so much in the near future.
Matt Cowan, technology reporter, Reuters: Learn the different facets of the job. The more you can do, the easier it will be to find a job. If you learn to perfection one world, for example broadcasting, that will limit your possibilities. Even if you want to create documentaries, don’t shy away from news. One more thing: Look for mentors and listen to them!
Dardis McNamee, editor in Chief, the Vienna Review: You need to learn how the world works, study political economy or science, as well as the tools of journalism. A skill that never goes out of style is to learn how to think or how to learn. Learn how to organize your ideas and communicate them. Be brave!
Richard Gizbert, presenter, Al Jazeera: Specializing was the thing when I entered broadcasting thirty years ago. Today, spezializing is the wrong way. Be as versatile and useful as you can. There is all this talk of “death of the industry”, but as a journalist, you have to believe in what you are doing. The field is as big as you are good. In television, there will always be a market for cool images and good writing. Don’t let the doomsayers get you.
Guido Baumauer, director of strategy, marketing and distribution, Deutsche Welle: Flexibility. Being a journalist is shifting to make conversations happening. You want to engage people, not only send outmessage. You cannot become either a radio journalist or a tv journalist, you have to do both and you need an integrated approach.
Wilfried Rütten, director, European Journalism Centre: Don’t give up! Be curious, learn as much as you can. Reading helps. Expect that you will spend more money than you earn. But don’t focus so much on the money, journalism will give you a decent income. Leave your immediate surroundings, don’t just stay in Sheffield, travel as much as you can, talk to as many as you can.
What is your best advice for journalism students in these crazy times?