Counter-intuitive as it may seem at first, there are signs of grassroots revolution happening in U.S. journalism, accompanied by the revolution in Internet-based technologies. The convergence of technology in news and media has been taking place since the technology revolution began. However, a new professional landscape is forming in which the techies are making bold moves into the land of journalists. “Techie Journalism” is on the rise.
From a techies’ point of view, the first and foremost question that may arise is the question of pay. Technology industry salaries are among the best of any industry. PayScale reports a median salary of $51,000 for an IT Specialist, and $38,000 for a news journalist. So why would a techie want to be a journalist?
The correct answer may be that not all techies would either want to, or qualify to be a journalist. It may be a matter of natural or circumstantial transition for the older technology professionals who have retired, or those who are unemployed due to circumstances out of their control. As the industry develops, one can envision techie journalism as a commonplace second job early in one’s tech career, and later as an established journalist.
Reporting news and writing professionally requires a different kind of talent. Social media itself has become a sort of instant news feed from around the world. Someone who happens to be on location and filming using a smartphone and uploading on their Twitter or Facebook page, or directly turning the news to a TV station has become quite commonplace. While this reporting has its place, a professional mobile newsman with knowledge of technology, along with writing skills, artistic blend, and most importantly, a unique angle to the situation cannot be substituted by a news organization that wants to take its place as a top contender in the emerging news media landscape. News agencies will need to address these secondary talent gaps through selection methods, internships, paid training, and other means.
Jeff Bezos, an icon in the eCommerce industry who bought The Washington Post for $250 million in August 2013, might as well have been stating the views of a potential techie journalist when he said “this will be uncharted terrain, and it will require experimentation.” In fact, Bezos was talking about the Journalism industry in general, and specifically the reinvention of what has traditionally been an industry that saw its heydays when the news was delivered in the early morning, in newspapers.
Bezos is not alone in his optimistic approach to taking a dying industry and revitalizing it to carve out a unique place for it in the era of technology. Over $300 million were invested by other venture capitalists into new media digital startups in 2013. ‘Citizen’, ‘backpack’, and ‘participatory’ journalism are becoming a part of the mainstream vocabulary. In the modern consumer society where the news is instantaneous and constant, technology fits perfectly in the delivery mechanism of news of the future because it allows mobility with speed. The progression is logical. After all, mankind began writing by carving stones, and through the ages, printing presses showed the world how far an idea can be taken. Few could have imagined the virtual, and mobile nature of press at that time.
The opportunity to dominate the grassroots of this journalistic revolution, and taking it to form the news industry of the 21st century is an exciting time to witness the transformation of an entire industry. The techies who are leading the way have an opportunity to set a new Gold Standard. The real opportunity may be for the executives of these new firms to position themselves as an authority in modern journalism through high standard news reporting. To accomplish this, executives will need to cultivate and retain top talent through competitive pay, and equally competitive perks such as healthcare, retirement planning etc. that are standard in other industries. And there is nothing counter-intuitive about that.
By Amit Singh