I don’t think there’s any doubt we are continuing to experience a dynamic shift in mass media theories and practices. The traditional forms of media are being challenged, reinvented or being scrapped as we create new ones and adjust to the informational needs of a diverse public. Mass media used to mean that the news was produced by journalists, the media, for consumption by the masses. That is no longer the case. Mass media today really means the masses, the public, is just as involved in the creation and dissemination of news content as journalists. We are at a place we’ve never been before and that is exciting and scary all at the same time. Can you think of another time when citizens felt they didn’t need a press to inform them?
How have these changes affected the roles of the journalists and how has Kiplinger responded?
For one, the days of being a single-purposed reporter are long over. For the past five years journalists have been required to develop an array of skills to match the technological advances in news gathering. It goes by names like multimedia, backpack journalism, digital media. Whatever name you choose, reporting today means you must be proficient in all platforms, from print, to web, to social media. That’s why the Kiplinger Program has carved such a significant place for itself with its programming that aims to take mid-career professional journalists and give them many of these skills sets, so they can remain relevant and competitive in today’s job market.
What kinds of training does Kiplinger provide?
It’s important for Kiplinger to remain current on the latest journalism trends, determine how those factor into real-world reporting needs, find the experts in those fields and then create training opportunities for journalists. We can teach everything from mobile phone reporting, to data mining, analytics, to relevant social media skills. Right now data analytics and data visualization are huge, and we are focusing upcoming sessions on those issues because they are in high demand. Executive Director Doug Haddix is an expert in data mining and spreadsheets, so he’s very popular right now. One component to all of this digital and social media journalism that has been missing has been looking at the ethical implications of what we are doing. That’s really my area of expertise, so moving forward not only will we be teaching technical skills, but we’ll be examining the ethics of how we use these mediums.
What does the future hold for journalism?
I think the jury is still out; we just don’t know where the next great shift in information consumption will be. I’ve been sitting in on these “future of journalism” talks for the past four years and no one really knows. Some want to see print die. Others want to create funding sources to keep traditional forms of media viable. For the most part though, journalism doesn’t set the pace. Technology and shifts in consumption habits and media literacy really set the pace. What I can tell you with a great deal of certainty is that we are not going backward. I still firmly believe in this age of great white noise created by the multitudes trying to fulfill a journalistic role, and there remains a need for the trained professionals who are committed to doing the job thoroughly and responsibly in the tradition of our greatest predecessors.