Ten Steps for Moving Journalism Forward

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has a problem — it's still a "society" (the oldest of its kind), but the terms "professional" and "journalist" are not what they used to be. Digital media and bottom-up news models have forced SPJ to re-evaluate its role and how it best can help today's journalists survive and thrive in the digital age.

Full disclosure: I was president of the Univerity of Missouri SPJ Chapter when I was in school, however back then we focused less on the profession and more on who was going to bring the alcohol to the next convention. But I digress.

According to a post from the Nieman Journalism Lab, SPJ tasked its Digital Media Committee to ask "what SPJ should look like in the contemporary context." The result was a report encompassing thoughts from a number of people  — Clay Shirky, Jay Rosen, Howard Owens, Alan Mutter, Rick Edmonds, Ken Doctor and others.

Following are ten ideas from the report to improve and move journalism forward. My favorite: "proper information-gathering and storytelling techniques are more important than ever in the digital age." As I often say, storytelling and people come first, technology comes second — it doesn't matter whether you know how to use a FlipCam if you don't know how to ask the right questions.

The entire report is well worth a read, both for its candor as well as SPJ's commitment to being a leader for the "professional" and "citizen" journalist alike. Let's just hope the report turns into action.

1. Bridge the divide between new and old media by aggregating and spotlighting high-quality journalism and facilitating communications among online start-ups and legacy media.

2. Create a vibrant network for new media start-ups to share ideas online and in person.

3. Take stands on hot-button digital media issues affecting the future of information sharing. Become an advocate for expanding access to the Internet, news and information.

4. Teach reporters to use powerful emerging technologies, from software to websites and gadgets capable of providing greater depth to stories and increasing public participation.

5. Educate members and citizens in the basics of journalism because proper information-gathering and storytelling techniques are more important than ever in the digital age.

6. Engage journalists and the public in a robust dialogue about the purpose, value and standards of journalism. Build public understanding of and trust in journalism, and educate citizens so they can practice journalism ethically.

7. Train media start-ups in entrepreneurial journalism by hosting seminars, producing regular magazine articles, creating convention programs and providing training opportunities on everything from sales to web development.

8. Teach journalists and their managers the theories behind why they should use new media technologies and examples of best practices, rather than just providing lessons about how to use equipment.

9. Ensure staff and leaders are hyper-literate in digital journalism trends and new media theories so they can anticipate what members will need to know.

10. Poll membership to determine and address journalists’ needs, and track and respond to the journalism industry’s direction.


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