Are We Redefining what a Journalist is, and What they Do?

There’s been a lot of tumult and debate over what makes a journalist a journalist today, set off by a New York Times article (I don’t want to bore you with all the details, which you can see here). But the basic questions have been, what do journalists stand for today? What are their duties and obligations?

While I find this interesting, what I looked for the most (being the career-obsessed man that I am) was what bearing this has on what journalists should be able to do today. If people are confused about what a journalist is, are they also confused about what skills they should have?

Naturally, Jeff Jarvis, who is slowly becoming one of my favorite people, helped clear the air with a recent Buzz Machine post.

There-are-no-journalists

Jarvis sums it up saying that journalism is the act of informing and organizing the public. With so many people able to do this now (cough Internet cough cough), it’s very common to see regular citizens commit “random acts of journalism.” Thankfully, they’re not as bad as they seem.

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Jarvis gives a list of new duties journalists have today, so let me just translate them into what I think are the skills you’d need for them

  • Asking the questions that are not answered in the flow = Using social media to keep track of and get involved in the constant flow of conversation online.
  • Providing functionality that enables sharing = Be able to manage and develop web pages with basic coding and design skills, and especially using Content Management Systems.
  • Organizing efforts to collaborate by communities, witnesses, experts = Be able to curate information, and make sharing important information easier for your audience. Find useful content online and share it with others while also adding your own insight (hopefully similar to what I’m doing now). 

This is Good for Journalists

As another follow-up post points out, this is actually good for journalists. Officially expanding the role of journalists into this more inclusive, expansive role can lead to more jobs! With the Internet becoming almost impossible to ignore for so many businesses that have before, the need for people with all these new skills will also rise.

So my advice for fellow journalism students out there: don’t market yourself as a reporter. Market yourself as an online manager. Not just someone who can write well, but can organize, design, communicate, and market well.

Don’t market yourself as someone who can commit the occasional “act of journalism.” Become a “serial journalist.” It sounds as great as it is.

- Max Antonucci