Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

The New Journalist

When automobiles were invented, a carriage driver might have thought that he just needed to learn a few new tricks to be able to make the shift from the reins to the wheel. In exactly that same way, many reporters imagine that learning some basic digital techniques and “googling” the rest will be enough to survive in the digital age. Some hope they can leave it to “technical people” to take care of audiences, design, distribution and revenue.

Yet to navigate a complex digital environment in which more than two billion participants are constantly producing information, journalists — who are supposed to be at the forefront of news — are forced to learn their trade almost from scratch.

How can they compete with the crowd? It is a daunting challenge, particularly for many mid-career journalists. In fact, it starts with a simple but fundamental change in mentality; writing a story doesn’t end when it is published, but continues well after users finish reading it – if indeed they do.

The next step is to learn how to develop and use products that will help you report, verify and explain stories. You need flexible teams with varied specialties capable of adapting or creating tools to rapidly analyze data needed for investigations, capture what users are talking about and engage with them so they can contribute with their own expertise. You should connect with peers and other professionals to cover realities that go beyond borders and topics that require expert knowledge. Finally, you have the challenge to steer audiences and communities away from clickClickA click can denote several different things. It can be a metric that…

Fortunately for journalists, there is a growing number of media and journalism schools and research centers investigating new trends, helping to understand digital disruption and its impact. With their newsletters, websites and interactive online training, among other resources, they can inform you about inspiring innovations, share academic research, spot threats, provoke critical thinking, highlight valuable journalistic endeavors, and report on moves in the industry that will affect how stories reachReach1) unique users that visited the site over the course of the reporting period,…

Well-known English-language organizations sharing knowledge in this field include the Nieman Lab, sponsored by the Nieman Foundation, at Harvard University. So far, it has focused on US-centered innovation, but it is now starting to publish in languages other than English and increasing its coverage of innovative media projects in other parts of the world. The University of Texas’ Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas connects journalists in North and South America, helping them understand and take advantage of digital change. The Center produces weekly stories on new enterprises in Latin America, such as for example, “Daily Corruption”, a researcher’s project to build a regional corruption database sourced from newspaper coverage. It also offers free online courses on new tools and best practices, such as “Product management for journalists”.

Another well-established global English-language knowledge-sharer is the US-based Poynter Institute. It is a tech-savvy journalism education and innovation center, which also provides a news platform covering trends in media. It offers practical courses, for example, How to write sharper social headlines. The British, Brighton-based, a for-profit online publisher, covers, also in English, innovation in the media industry, offers training, lists jobs, features press releases and organizes the News Rewired conference series. This piece on Dutch start-up The Playwall, which gives readers the option to pay for content by giving their opinions or extra information about a story, is a good example of the kind of stories they carry. Digiday, a platform with branches in both the US and the UK, aims to foster change in the media and marketing sectors. They feature reflections on the industry such as this podcast by Washington Post’s Chief Risk Officer, Jed Hartman, which invites publishers to stop whining about the Facebook-Google duopoly and start figuring out their own unique contribution to the information marketplace.

Specialized outlets are covering media trends and innovation in other parts of the world too. These usually publish their stories in different languages. For example, the ICFJ’s International Journalists Network (IJNet), highlights a variety of projects undertaken by their fellows in several countries. They recently shared a great piece on 8 key trends in local journalism in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese. Similarly, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), an international association of nonprofit investigative journalism organizations, has created regional feeds to share content across multiple platforms in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish, as well as from across Africa. The European Journalism Observatory (EJO), a network of independent non-profit media research institutes, is publishing stories based on their research findings, such as this one on the surge of ad blockers in Poland, in up to 14 language.

Among the regional knowledge-sharers up and coming are The Splice Newsroom, a media specializing in the Asian market, and Jamlab, a platform from Wits University’s Journalism Department in South Africa, reporting on innovation across the African continent. Both start-ups publish original content in their area of expertise. For example, a recent Splice piece was: Asia’s top journalists and editors share their best advice for aspiring young reporters, while in Jamlab’s section “Innovator Q&A”, FrontPage Africa founder Rodney Sieh speaks of how this platform revolutionized digital media in Liberia.

With such a rich array of options, you can chose to subscribe to whatever source is most relevant for you, depending on your geography, language or interest. Just following a few could inspire you with new ideas and make your next trip to the digital galaxy that much more fun.

This story originally appeared in of the Open Society Foundation’s Program on Independent Journalism and is reprinted with permission. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Article by María Teresa Ronderos

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