Let technology plot the path forward

Like many journalists, I can remember when I first thought about pursuing a career in the field.

As a teenager, I loved writing and reading well-done stories, and I often found them in the newspaper. By the time I reached high school, I was reading The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press everyday, and out of that, a sense of calling to the profession simply grew within me.

But like many others who grew up during the glory days of newspapers, I must say I never envisioned the kind of  innovations that technology has brought to journalism, like AR/VR, drones and artificial intelligence bots writing stories. Most of my chats with industry friends these days center on these topics, and it seems those conversations have become more frequent since the start of the year, when we’ve seen the elimination of thousands of news jobs, not to mention threats of hostile company takeovers and lots of general uncertainty.

Fortunately for us, in these uncertain times, futurists give us scenarios we can use to try to predict how technology might impact journalism’s future. But the present is less clear, and anyone who says they know what should be done at the moment isn’t being honest. At best, we can only guess what skills we’ll need to cope with this ever-changing landscape.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to share some of the suggestions I’ve given friends about how to proceed forward, suggestions I’ve cultivated after nearly two decades in the industry.

Because if we work in news — where we sacrifice stability and consistent working hours to uphold the First Amendment — then we are in this together, as “family.”

And I hope that some of my suggestions may be helpful or at the very least, spur some new ideas in you that you can share with other members of our journalism “family.”

No. 1 — Take an honest, private assessment of your technology skills. Then spring into action

It might seem scary or foreign, but consider your skills and knowledge in the vein of technology trends. Nearly every technology trend report cites automation, smart things/loT (the Internet of Things), blockchain, data and immersive experiences as growth and expansion areas for jobs. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Pick one or two to learn more about its overall impact and potential opportunities for growth.

For instance, about 30 months ago, I didn’t know much about AR/VR and how useful it is in storytelling. I started reading more on the topic online and using it with some very basic headsets. I also started reading all I could on revenue models for this application of news, and saw how this application was already underway in gaming. If I was still working daily in the industry, I’d probably explore how and when it made sense to use this technology with my reporting or if I could I suggest a new product beneficial to readers that would generate revenue.

To grow knowledge, we can take classes, workshops, view YouTube videos, read articles or use LinkedIn’s learning tab. Consider joining organizations, such as the Online News Association, that keep you up-to-date on technological trends. Employers value people who not only have journalism muscle, but also some interest and knowledge in the newest trends.

Explore new options

One of the growing areas is international nonprofit news, according to the Nieman Lab’s Predictions for Journalism 2019. With growth comes new opportunities and the chance to propose job responsibilities that may not even exist yet. This is an area to evaluate, study and network with its leaders as revenue grows in this spectrum of journalism. If your community doesn’t have a local nonprofit online journalism site, you might explore the process of entrepreneurship and connect with members and programs at the Institute of Nonprofit News and LION Publishers.

Examine cross-over industries with technology

Building immersive experiences often requires some exposure and experience with video and content, but it also requires a story mindset. How will the pieces fit together and provide a 360-interactive experience? Not only are there expected to be more journalism jobs (at some point, as monetization is worked out in this area) but increasingly journalism skills are needed in other fields.

For example, in healthcare, the immersive experience is giving way to discussions around how medical training can improve and how healthcare professionals can better understand the experiences of patients. According to the Medical Futurist, even using some devices and experiences, such as StoryUp, can help people relax.

Someone has to put these experiences together, and it just might be you thanks to your great journalism and storytelling brain. Many industries need immersive content experts for the same reasons.

Let technology help you stay organized

Whether it be using social networks to stay organized, keeping a file tickler in easy-to-access digital docs or using alerts as a way to keep up on key words and trends, use technology resources to make this process as efficient as possible for you as you grow your knowledge and keep an eye on new opportunities. Ask anybody who knows me and they will tell you that my biggest thing is using calendars. Lately, I’ve been laying calendar over calendar with color coordination. I have a calendar just for personal information follow up, for example. My next move is to link my calendar with Alexa. I can never have too many reminders and an audio one may be just what I need every day.

Don’t walk this alone

Talk to friends, former colleagues, neighbors, etc. and network to find new opportunities. One of my favorite career strategies is the informational interview, when you meet with a person to learn about opportunities in another organization or industry. I was trained in the process in 2013, when I worked with a career coach in Boston to help me move my career forward.

One of the most important aspects of the informational interview is to view it as a relationship-building experience, not a job interview. You’ll still want to do your research and be prepared with questions about that company’s goals, initiatives and challenges, however, and with the use of video conferencing and chat, you could set up an opportunity to meet someone anywhere and learn about their company without the pressure of a job interview. Try to explore new opportunities before crisis or more stress hits. Here’s a link to a talk I gave at HerTomorrow, a women’s leadership conference, when I discussed the informational interview strategy.

“Family,” always remember the same excitement and curiosity that got us into journalism, because we need it now more than ever. We need it to light the path forward for ourselves, our communities, our colleagues and friends. Change is uncomfortable and learning new things can seem overwhelming, but remember this, too … our communities need strong news organizations, and they always will.

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