Oh dear, that does sound like a very preachy title for this post, does it not?
One of the objectives I had for this blog was not to rail from the pulpit so much. Yet in reviewing some posts from the first four months of Ink-Drained Kvetch (has time flown by!) I see that I’ve done that quite a bit.
For a while I’ve been debating whether I’d sound panicky and desperate by invoking such a tone. Then again, the news about newspapers and the media industry is only growing worse as we move into 2009. I won’t rehash the story here, because you know this. Some 2008 roundups from the world of journalism and new media can be found here, here and here.
I aim this blog for displaced journalists who still want to do the news, and who are open to learning ways of doing the news that weren’t standard newsroom fare for the most part.
This means it is more than past time to embrace the Web. Not just playing with some tools, casually posting to a blog about your Christmas vacation or updating your Facebook page with — ahem — adorable cat photos.
It’s time to seriously begin understanding how the Web works, how readers use it, how to reach them and how it can work for you. Now. It’s not just about learning code or going a little geeky or getting a better grasp on technology, although those things are part of the equation. It’s not just trying to learn how to get people to click on to what you write or produce, and have continuing conversations with them, although those are very important practices to learn.
What’s critical, at least to me, is to overcome long-held perceptions that many of us may carry over from our print backgrounds. It’s about jumping into the deep end of the Web, learning how to dog-paddle for a while, but also knowing that while you may feel in over your head, that’s okay.
You have to want to make this change. The learning curve is steep. I know, and I’ve been doing Web journalism for four years. I too feel overwhelmed at times. But there are a few rays of light in the following predictions for what may transpire in ’09 here, here and especially this one proclaiming 2009 to be the “year of the journalist.” Here’s the caveat:
“Whilst the idea that demand for content outstrips the supply of those capable of creating may not ring true for most it’s clear that a journalist with some web savvy, a good presence online and an understanding of their audience is an increasingly valuable proposition.”
Another veteran journalist excited about the possibilities on the Web says foot-dragging no longer makes any sense:
“To me the question isn’t, ‘Why should I use new media’; the question is, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to.’ Imagine if those monks who spent years transcribing books by hand said ‘no way’ to the new-fangled technology of their day, the printing press? To me, that’s as silly as journalists today refusing to even try the news technologies.’ “
Still not convinced? An enterprising young Web journalist who’s helped show me the ropes offers his Knute Rockne speech, which he calls a survival guide to “owning” 2009 and beyond:
“Journalism is NOT dependent on the fate of your employer, newspapers or mass media. Rather, YOU can help decide journalism’s future.“
Later this week, I’m beginning weekly “how to” posts to point you in the right direction as get you started learning tools and applications on the Web. It’s strictly going to be 101 material for now, including topics related to freelancers and journalists as entrepreneurs.
Since some readers, former colleagues and friends have asked “How do I get started with a blog?” that’s a good and logical place to begin. There are so many terrific resources out there, but they can seem daunting and difficult to pick through. I’ve chosen a few links and tutorials designed with journalist newbies in mind, so there are no more excuses not to get started.
So anybody who’s still even a bit reluctant from this point on is gonna get a Bobby Knight speech!
Until then, I’ll leave you with my own take on all this, from the heart:
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