PODCAST: The future of journalism and journalist is context and amplification

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

the future of journalism croppedI spoke to journalism students at the University of Iowa about storytelling and we also discussed the future of journalism – a topic discussed in this podcast.

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Christoph Trappe with The Authentic Storytelling Project, and I want to talk about journalists and storytelling. Now, journalists can be great storytellers, and they can help us understand things that are going on around us.

Now this came back to mind as I was speaking to journalism students at the University of Iowa in March 2015, and we talked about what’s the future of journalism. One of the questions I asked was, “I’ve heard that journalism is dying. So, what do you think of that? Why would you go into a field that is dying?” And somebody said, “Journalism isn’t dying- it’s print that’s dying.”

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Now that’s also debatable, whether or not print is dying, but we do know that ad revenue has, plunged since 2007 or so and people get their news online, social media. So it is clear that consumer behavior is changing. But the art of journalism, storytelling (especially contextual storytelling) is not dead and it’s not dying, and we need context in our lives to figure out what it is that we need to know and why do we need to know it, and what are we going to do with the information.

And I think that is where journalists come in more and more. We also have the journalism of “here’s what happened, here are the facts as we know them.” Now of course there’s always multiple versions of any story- much is perception.

A lot of times, here’s what person A saw happen, and here’s what person B saw that happened and, you know, if you don’t believe me, we can always ask police officers who take witness reports and I’m certain that they can tell us that they hear many different versions. Now some things are indisputable and we can see what happened, but there are multiple versions of the same story out there, obviously.

It’s not just about sharing the facts and sharing what has happened. A lot of the time people can help do that themselves. They can share it on their social networks, they can get re-shared and that way information can spread. I’ll give you an example.

In September of 2014, I was flying back from Las Vegas after speaking at the Internet Marketing Association conference, and I was trying to catch another flight from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. And there was a fire at the tower, at the tower that covered that airport. Now the tower was maybe forty-some miles away from the airport, but it shut down all the different flights flying in and out of Chicago.

chicago ground stopSo interestingly, I could tweet what I heard on the intercom, I could share pictures on Facebook and Twitter of people standing in line and boards of flights, screens of flights that said, “cancelled, cancelled, cancelled,” but what I couldn’t do is I couldn’t add the context. I couldn’t explain what was going on and why it was going on.

So that is where we need journalists to step in, tell us the full story as we know it, and that’s not going to go away just because fewer people are reading a printed newspaper. More and more people are on social media. It’s like 70 percent of internet users are on social media and they are paying attention.

They’re seeing what people are sharing. They’re seeing what people are saying. So that’s where I get a lot of my news now, and some of it is from somewhat traditional media outlets. Context is super important. And then also the amplification. Example, I was sharing to my network which of course, you know, is one size, and then you have the public at large that follows these traditional media outlets and of course that’s typically larger than just a person’s network.

Now, so what happened is, I was tweeting about the fire at the airport tower and other media outlets, national and in the Chicagoland and even back in Eastern Iowa started to pick up what I was tweeting. They were amplifying what I was seeing and saying. They used my photo, I saw it on the news, and then I talked about, “Oh, my flight is now going back so this is the first flight back to Cedar Rapids. They just announced that all the other flights are full for the rest of the day and they’re not even scheduled right now.”

I was able to share that and there was some amplification going on. Now some of the outlets added context as it became available:

  • Here’s why it happened
  • Here’s what it means
  • Here’s what the impact is going to be and how long it’s going to take.

And so all those things showed how media, how journalism, can survive down the road.

Now the other thing is (this is more important for journalists and not necessarily the media companies until it does affect them) is that as more and more organizations practice brand journalism, there will be a hot market for journalists to make the switch to become brand journalists and actually tell stories for brands across the globe. And those skills transfer directly from journalism (more traditional journalism) even if it’s online to the brand journalism side.

So, great discussion with the students at the University of Iowa about the future of journalism, how journalists can go about telling stories, why it’s important. Not everybody will be able to gather the context without somebody spelling it out in an easy to understand way. So there is definitely a future for journalism and journalists whether it’s in traditional journalism or in brand journalism, which is very similar to content marketing.

Thank you for listening.