Good reporting will live on, perhaps on the smell of bytes

The internet may be killing advertising in the media but perhaps the future ain’t so dull, after all:

For the European Digital Journalism Survey 2009, 350 European journalists were asked what impact the internet had on journalism – and the outcome is surprising. Even though it appears whining is part of everyday journalism work these days – and some would say it was ever thus – journalists still love their job. They struggle hard within a changing industry, but still believe in the quality of the European press. To sum it up, the end of journalism seems to be far away.

Over half the firms questioned reporting a fall in advertising income of more than 10%. The mood of the industry isn’t the best, to put it mildly. How interesting, then, that the internet is not regarded as the future of journalism: 32% of the journalists think that the publication, or TV/radio channel they work for might disappear from the market, while fewer than 10% reckon that their publication, radio or TV channel will survive online.

No wonder: while new forms of distribution such as Twitter are widely accepted and increasingly used, the internet is obviously still not a medium for which journalists create specific content. Just 43% of them say that at least half their online content is originally created for the web. While the obvious explanation would be the unwillingness of the journalists to produce for online, this is not the case. The journalists are not to blame.

Indeed, the figures from the European Digital Journalism Survey suggest something else: Far more than the majority, more than 66%, had no kind of training at all in producing journalism for the new medium. This can be seen as a huge failure of publishers preparing their workers for the future of journalism. No wonder that within most publications the interaction with user-generated content can be still regarded as passive: 68% accept comments on stories online and only 23% quote bloggers. User-generated content is widely neglected.

Still on the press, journalists are coming to terms with the internet changing the way they research, organise their workflow and distribute their content. The biggest publications all over Europe have, for example, Twitter channels, led by the UK with nearly 70% and followed by nearly 40% in the Netherlands. 35% use blogs to research stories, and 13.5% even have their own independent blog.

But the new media situation has changed the workload as well: 40% said they were expected to produce more content – including making video content (14.5%) or podcasts (8%). Not very surprisingly, 28% said that they had to work longer hours and 29% reported that they have less time to research stories in person. Anyhow, there seems to be a positive effect as well, with 29% of journalists saying they are now able to focus more on analysis than news.

Either way, journalists still seem to believe in their products. 40% of them even feel that the quality of journalism has improved over the last two years (just over 20% think it has declined), a figure that rises in France and Spain to 60%. And 84% report that they are still as happy – or even happier – with their job.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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