Recently I moderated a Dallas Press Club panel for journalists who were looking for new career paths due to layoffs in their field. The question came up, “Will there still be journalists in 20 or 30 years?”
It’s an interesting question that I often hear, and I have two answers. First, yes, there will always be trained journalists who we rely on daily for accurate, unbiased news reporting. And second, we will ALL be journalists due to the rapid explosion of social media. In many regards, we will come to rely on both types of journalists for our news.
Let’s take the recent tornado outbreak in Dallas/Fort Worth as an example. As you may know, approximately 15 major tornadoes struck DFW one afternoon during the work day. At our office, we were glued to the local television stations reporting both the tornado damage and weather reports. (Yes, we did go to the stairwell at appropriate times.)
We had the TV helicopters giving us the live footage of the 18-wheelers flying through the air and the tornados forming in the sky. At the same time, “citizen journalists” were sending in their photos and footage from the ground, augmenting the official coverage from the TV stations.
It is this combination of two types of journalism that gives us a more full and accurate view of news events. Until recent years, we had to rely solely on formal news organizations to give us the news. Now we can all contribute to the news cycle by being in the right place at the right time. Just look at the passengers on the JetBlue flight who got the only footage of the pilot going crazy as the plane was in the air, and whose footage subsequently went viral both through traditional outlets and social media channels.
As a former journalist, however, I know that we will always need “real journalists” to interpret, investigate and report on the news on a macro scale to give us the full story. And it distresses me to see so many good journalists being laid off or choosing to leave the field. I can only hope students keep taking journalism and aspire to become true reporters.