Journalists need to be astronauts of cyberspace

The real problem for journalists is not that newspapers are becoming irrelevant. It’s that journalists are letting themselves become irrelevant.

With the advent of the Internet, citizen journalism is reaching new levels. Communication is no longer stifled by the monetary constraints of publishing and circulating a newspaper.

People can communicate their thoughts or events that happen around them from (almost) anywhere in the world for free.

The newspaper, a staple of American life throughout most of last century, has been replaced by blogs, microblogs like Twitter, and websites with RSS feeds accessible by mobile devices like laptops and cell phones.

This change represents significant improvement in the delivery medium of the news, but requires a paradigm shift for those who are stubbornly steadfast in the ways of old.

Sure, there are many competitors for readers’ attention, but that doesn’t mean one more can’t enter the fray and be successful.

Newspaper companies can survive; they just have to adapt different strategies for serving up audiences to advertisers.

First off, writing for the Internet requires the writer have patience, because the reader won’t. The writing needs to be even more accurate, brief and clear – which takes more time.

This certainly makes a case for keeping on the copy editor.

Although today, these people need to play a bigger role than combing through copy for errors of fact, grammar, style, etc… They should know basic HTML code, simple tricks for processing images, how to work with multimedia and more.

There’s a significant opportunity for employment here, but many resort to seeking alternative employment or lamenting on the American Copy Editors Society‘s forum about their disdain at having to do these tasks.

Secondly, these companies need to be innovative but useful.

Part of Twitter‘s intrigue is that while it’s revolutionary, it’s also simple enough to be used with ease across many different platforms operating on different systems.

That’s more than I can say for several news sites I’m unable to access on my phone – and I have a pretty advanced phone.

It’s really about giving the people what they want – not trying to revive a dying medium by forcing it on them.

Newspapers could have a leg-up in the digital world because they already possess credibility. Online, they could serve as a beacon to guide people through the abundance of unchallenged information.

Lastly, newspapers need to re-immerse themselves in the name of the game: profit.

It’s all fine and dandy to claim you’re out to save the world by raising awareness to current events, but if you don’t make any money, you won’t be around to do it very long.

One user on the ACES’ forum said that in five years the decline in print revenue is expected to stabilize. At that time, most analysts expect online content to only account for about 15 percent of the profit.

Switching focus to online content at the detriment to the print edition, which accounts for about 85 percent of the profit, doesn’t seem like a good idea, he said.

To that, I offer this: When 85 percent of your profit comes from the print edition, then you don’t have enough online content and it’s no wonder you’re going bankrupt.

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