“What do I tell my journalism students about their future?”
A journalism professor at A&T in North Carolina asked a panel I was on that question during Converge South. Too easy, I thought, so I piped up immediately with my answer: brighter than ever before… if they see what talent they have and where it is needed.
The Internet has become the place that most of the younger generation (61% of Gen X) gets their news. The downside to that, of course, is that anyone can say anything online. Zero dollars, a computer and half a brain can get you a blog, so now everyone is a journalist–or are they?
Journalists are people that research, repackage, and retell a story about events, people, trends, or issues. The difference between journalists and some online writers (that’s me) is that a journalist researches, pushes for the deeper story, and goes the extra step. When major world events occur, who do you look to for accurate information? Is a mention on Twitter enough or do you wait for CNN to confirm?
What is missing from the news world online and actually from most content online is research. Google changed the game last year by focusing its search algorithm on unique content that is good for users. They are forcing webmasters to change for the better (yay!).
But who creates that awesome, shareable content? A “writer” does work that’s just “good enough” for online publishing. Awesome, shareable, truly unique (not spun) content is written by journalists. They take the time to ask questions and interview people about a topic.
Journalists might cost more than a standard writer, but in most cases they are worth it. Any writer can be a journalist if they take the time to really own a piece of content. Unique, well-researched content can take your company and website from just the middle of the pack online to the top.
Think about what happens to a site once its content is seen as authoritative, unique (“exclusive content”), and high quality? That content is shared socially, linked to multiple times over time from high quality sites, and brand equity is increased.
So, journalists… SEO needs you, search needs you, and websites need you. Hold to those standards of journalism you learned in school. Create great content for websites and watch your own personal brand grow. If you can be a great writer and journalist, you can make a fortune writing for a multitude of sites.
This won’t be easy; there is no go-to place to find a gig. But if you know your strengths, you will do fine now and in the future. We may know technology, but you know how to create content that sells, lasts, and elicits a real response from readers. Own your talent.