Peering into journalism’s crystal ball

By Kimberly Lee, J Camp Live! staff

Waking up to the “zooms” of hovercrafts flying outside a window, the 2050 citizen grabs a cup of freshly brewed coffee and sits at the kitchen table to read the morning news. But instead of the traditional 14” by 16” newspaper, the latest news and information from around the world is beamed from a compact computer box with multi-media coverage.

Could this be the future of journalism, a world without newspaper and magazines?

Students and professionals alike are asking this question as journalism advances on Internet.

“I think the internet will be the main media base,” said Jordan Hung, a J Camp student from California.  “Print journalism will be around but will not be as important as online media because the younger generation is brought up as already tech-savvy.”

Although the next generation is much more knowledgeable about the cyber world, more advancement has yet to come.  And that will require new skill sets for the journalists of the future, and the printed word won’t be enough to engage readers.

“All students need to be able to think visually,” said Jessica Brown, a visual journalist who teaches at Loyola University. “Writers now not only must focus on their written work, but must also find video, photos, and audio to accompany their story.”

But this multi-media newsroom of the future could lead to two different outcomes.

On one hand, the Internet could spawn a superior and collaborative form of journalism that interests more readers. Statistics gathered by Richard Lui, correspondent and anchor for CNN Headline News, shows a dramatic rise in online news readership (4.1 million viewers) compared to television broadcasts (1 million). 

The second outcome isn’t so rosy.

The consolidation of media companies, and difficulty of reaping profits from the Internet, is already shrinking newsrooms. In 2008, 4,494 journalists were laid off from work, according to the website Trends in Living Networks.  Some wonder what journalism jobs – if any – will be available in the future.

 Even if the platforms are changing, there will always be a demand for news. It just may come delivered on a computer instead of a TV, though many of the skill sets remain the same.

“I had to send out audition tapes to many television stations when I was starting out,” said Ana Belaval, WGN morning news anchor.  “But, you have something that we did not have: the Internet.  Now, you can just broadcast yourself by the way of the web.”

James Colton, Sports Illustrated photography editor, is also optimistic.

“The greatest outlet for photography in the future is going to be the web,” Colton said.

As an example, Colton presented a multi-media slide show to J Camp students.  Flashes of photography were seamlessly integrated with audio recording and live video for a dazzling final product.

Many print journalists are unfortunately having a harder time with the shifting situation.  Re-organization has been the main word to describe newspapers today, such as the Chicago tribune.  When a panel of Chicago Tribune reporters was asked if they knew what the future would hold for print media, they replied with remarks of uncertainty and anxiety.

For the time being, the Chicago Tribune staff is trying to cover all of the possibilities.  From putting the newspaper online to writers blogging about their articles in the daily newspaper, the Chicago Tribune is doing its best to adapt to the Internet age and changing appetites for news.

So how will this all resolve itself? The only ones that truly know the future are the journalism gods and right now, they are not willing to share this information.

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