Confronting the ‘new’ journalism

The Evening Standard and The Times can be given for free at Tube stations or airports (depending on the airline).
The Evening Standard and The Times are given for free at Tube stations or airports (depending on the airline).

Over the past semester, I’ve tweeted from trains, updated from airports and shot photos from water ferries.

I’ve struggled to find WiFi in the Scottish Highlands, at the top of the Apennine mountains and on the coast of the Mediterranean.

I’ve attended football matches, toured palaces and wandered around parks. I have talked with flatmates, shop owners, lecturers and family for background information.

I have taken approximately 5,572 photographs and written 23,337 words in four months.

In short, over the past semester I’ve become a blogger.

There is a rather large debate occurring the the journalism world right now between the “old school” and the “new school”, specifically at Marquette. It isn’t really a debate that can be simplified to one blog post, but my semester of blogging has taught me that it might be worth discussing anyway.

Online journalism is not as different from ‘traditional’ journalism as I originally supposed. There may be more multimedia involved and a higher focus on analytics, but really, what’s the difference between analytics and circulation numbers?

What hasn’t changed is the need for solid reporting and good content. I’m not reporting breaking news in my blog, but hope some of my posts have been entertaining.

Both “old” and “new” journalism require good research, fine-tuned listening skills, meticulous editing and an eye for interesting topics. Both require understanding of established boundaries, a comprehensive knowledge of AP style and adhesion to deadlines.

I think sometimes we focus too much on getting the journalism online, on Twitter or on Facebook that we forget it needs to be quality journalism.

The vocabulary has changed slightly, but the basics are still required. It took me quite a bit of time to realize that fact.

I was quite upset this year when the print paper The Marquette Tribune experienced budget page cuts and restructuring. I was convinced the school was ignoring the importance of writing for young student journalists such as myself, because I had learned so much from the paper.

I thoroughly respect #LongLiveTheTrib. But after spending a semester with this entirely online project and looking over my daily life, I realized I only read a paper newspaper a few times per week because the Evening Standard is still handed out, for free, at every Tube station. I’ve read the Financial Times when I’m offered it by a British Airlines flight attendant or when an old banker leaves it on his seat in my railcar.

But if I didn’t receive these paper editions for free, I would not read them. My news comes from Twitter, the television, my News Feed on Facebook and my BBC Homepage. Even my hometown paper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, is now delivered electronically to my inbox, not a paper in my parent’s mailbox.

I’ve had a chance to learn multimedia and get better digital skills because of my online endeavor. My editorial style of journalism here is only one very small example of what online journalism can be.

My first online journalism endeavor has taught me that “new” journalism does not have to equate to “bad” journalism. It can, and sometimes does. But, it doesn’t have to – the online reporting of Marquette’s media outlets and countless news organizations across the country prove that daily.

I am still skeptical about focusing journalism online. I’m used to the print model I grew up with.

“New” journalism may mean tweeting more, checking analytics like baseball scores and worrying more about SEO than column inches. But we’re still searching for that perfect news model (which in reality probably does not exist).

If I’ve learned anything this semester, it’s that “new journalism,” “digital journalism,” “online journalism” – whatever it might be labeled, is worth a shot.