Journalism · Technology

A Digital First Approach To Journalism

Steven Buttry, director of community engagement and social media for Digital First Media, has been making efforts to redirect and redefine journalism, journalists, and the newsroom. The first thing to understanding what Buttry is doing is to understand what digital first means. Digital first means putting a priority on the new technologies and new techniques.

Newspapers’ audiences are shrinking and their revenue streams are running low, however, the digital community and its revenue stream is blossoming. The survival and success of newspapers and journalists requires and demands a digital focus. According to Steve Yelvington, longtime newspaper journalist and founding editor of Star Tribune Online, we need to make the future our first priority, requiring us to restructure our current priorities and focus on what we do and how we are doing it.

Technology is constantly changing and journalists and newspapers need to consistently adapt as new tools become available or when someone innovates a new technique. There are many tools readily available.

Photo Courtesy of Alison Rudig

Twitter can be a journalist’s best friend. A journalist can use Twitter as a notebook, which can be shared with the community as news is happening. Tweets can be used as a play-by-play record for sporting events or any other kind of event. Journalists can use hashtags in their tweets to make it easier to search and follow news stories. Just be sure to be smart in using hashtags. Stick with descriptive ones, rather than branded hashtag. Blogs are also a very useful tool for journalists.

A blog, like Twitter, can be used as a notebook, which can be shared, except you can go back and edit the blog and include more detail. Reporters can write a summary that will update a blog intro and run in the newspaper. It will be shorter than coverage, but still informational. Blogs generate community discussion. Journalists can take discussion topics, points, and questions and then begin to develop a thorough story, which the community would be interested in reading. Blogs also allow you to include video, audio, and pictures to enhance understanding and experience. Blogs allow you to interact with the live community, but webcasts, live chats, and a combination of the two are also great tools readily available.

Texting is also a quick and easy tool for journalists. If any developments merit a news alert, a reporter can quickly text, or email, an alert to their editor and publish alerts directly. Texting also allows reporters to check in with sources, and check for updates. The use of a smartphone comes in very handy. A journalist can take photos and post them immediately to a blog or tweet, he or she can shoot video, take a variety of stills for a slide show, record sound, take mug shots of key characters, and record names, credentials, and other documents accurately.

Journalists wanting to take a digital first approach need to be provided with the adequate tools needed. Newspapers following a digital first approach need to invest in the necessary digital tools. The digital first journalist needs to adjust or overhaul his or her workflow as demanded by news. According to Buttry, “Each reporter must shape his own digital first routine.” They need to be assertive in seeking and using databases, either to deliver interactive answerbases to the community or to visualize data. Journalists need to think of various ways to share the news: video, maps, source documents, links to archived content and other related content. Reporters need to include links to all content, including stories, live blogs, and tweets. Include pieces interesting only people following your topic or community closely. Journalists need to take responsibility for their work and ensure copy is clear, concise, and correct. The newsrooms need to reorganize and rethink to face digital challenges, according to Buttry.

I think Buttry’s digital first vision is going to improve journalism and newsrooms and keep the field afloat. The future of journalism depends on adaption to new technologies, social media, and new techniques. It is possible for the traditional newsroom to change, but as Adrian Holovaty said, leaders of news organizations tend to be afraid of change or they are too old to understand the Internet and new advances. They either need to step aside or let someone take over the roll in order for news orgs to survive.

Digital First Priorities:

  1. Work and think first for digital platforms
  2. Experiment and take risks
  3. Try new tools and techniques
  4. Cover news live
  5. Join, stimulate, curate, and lead the community conversation
  6. Engage the community in your coverage
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