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A few words on the changing media landscape

July 26, 2010

I was at a barbecue on the Fourth of July and started a conversation with a person who is successful in pharmaceutical sales. After hearing him talk about how successful he was, I asked him why he succeeds where others fail. His answer was quick: His mother had been deaf since he was young, so he’d needed to learn different, nonverbal ways of communicating, giving him an edge over his competition who were only capable of reading clients and conveying their thoughts in certain ways.

That conversation was brought back to me earlier this week on our visit to the Smithsonian Channel, where David Royle, the Channel Executive Vice President, said that he entered his career thinking of himself as a journalist in a given medium, be it print, video, radio or now online. His mindset has shifted, however, to the point where he now thinks of himself as “a nonfiction storyteller.”

By labeling himself that way, Royle pays homage to his profession while also avoiding pigeonholing himself. In today’s media landscape, it is crucial to understand that people consume media in disparate manners. There are, for instance, still people who read the daily paper with their breakfast every morning. But there are also people who depend on the Huffington Post for their news, just as there are a few who turn to Jon Stewart for the latest scoop.

Royle also touched on something that I’ve been turning over in my head for a while: Journalists are little more than storytellers. We’re out here to relay a series of events in a compelling and accurate manner. In reality, we’re no different than Ernie Pyle hammering on his typewriter, Walter Cronkite sitting behind his desk or Woodward and Bernstein digging where they weren’t welcome. Journalism’s survived this far and has undergone several major medium shifts. We’re in the middle of another shift and as long as we can see the forest (and our principles) for the trees, journalism will remain the same.

Only the method of delivery will change.

Originally published at SIWJ Live

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