My semester in JOMC 240 has been about opening my eyes to reality and learning to get excited about that reality.
The conclusions I ended up making — through the help of Professor Robinson and all my classmates — about where we, as journalists and communicators, are and where we are headed have surprised and inspired me.
I’ll say it like this: I love The Newsroom. Big time. I started watching the show the summer after I graduated high school. My dad and I spent that summer and three more (too short) seasons completely captured by Sorkin’s quick dialogue and smart characters. As did others.
The show was highly criticized and compared negatively to Sorkin’s other masterpieces. People said it was idealistic, smug, self-serving, and probably worse. But I didn’t care (and don’t still, really).
I fell in love with the show as I simultaneously fell in love with journalism. I’d say it did a great deal in molding what I thought of all that journalists could be — fearless, unapologetic, on a mission. I started taking some journalism classes at UNC, interned with my local newspaper — The Hickory Daily Record — and started writing for The Daily Tar Heel my sophomore year. I loved that the journalists I met and learned from believed strongly in what they were doing.
However, with that belief, sometimes came an ego. Just as Will McAvoy and the whole ACN team resisted digital news that seemed to come up shallow compared to what they felt they could bring to the table, I felt the same sense of pride and nostalgia in my real-life journalistic experience/courses. We are journalists. This is how we do things.
This semester was about losing the ego. That started with realizing: everything is going digital. So deal with it.
Even if print is saved in some way — maybe for those who want to pay big bucks for it, or as a monthly edition — it will never be what it was. I believe the same, to some extent, for broadcast journalism. Although not in such bad shape as newspapers, it still rests on packaging news and telling the consumer what it is he or she should care about and know. That model will not work, at least not for long. People know what they want and will get it, whether you think it is worthy or not.
My second lesson: digital is not evil.
I already knew this, but for some reason was not applying it to the news industry. I already live online in many ways. I share what I care about, I talk to my friends, I find a sense of community in different networks, I find most of my own news — online. When people say that journalism is all going digital, it feels like some death sentence. That doesn’t have to be the case. Sure, we still have a lot to figure out as far as how to make that change and make money in the online world. But there will always be a need for reliable information, for thinking individuals that uncover truths and create discussion around important issues.
Let’s be open to change.
We are in a new, challenging and exciting time. Our flexibility and adaptability will probably be our most important characteristics as future communicators. Never shut down a new idea just because you’d never thought about it, or because it feels threatening to “how things should be.”
Let’s keep our foundations — like shining light in dark places, holding powerful people accountable, giving voice to the voiceless and providing people with information that helps them make informed decisions.
But, even more so, let us reach.
Standing on those foundations, let us stretch our arms and our minds in all that journalism can do for people.
Let’s think of new ways that we can fulfill those goals. Create engaging and interactive content that people cannot get anywhere else if they tried. Give people what they want and then some. Step up to the plate and realize our competitors are not each other but those that already digitally track, store and share our information on a larger scale. View ourselves as service-providers rather than just content creators. Prove that we are valuable instead of expecting anyone and everyone to care.
JOMC 240 was a class that made sure I was learning for myself. The blogs and the class discussions kept me on my toes. They kept me paying attention — more than ever — to where news is going and how I can be a part of figuring out the future. I hope I can play some role, even if small, in reaching for more.
I still look up to the characters on The Newsroom and to some of those “egotistical journalists” because they have something that we have to carry on in whatever form journalism takes next: heart.
We must passionately carry on, searching for what is next and never giving up on the beauty and necessity of an important story.