A challenge to journalists: Be brave. Be visionary. Or be irrelevant
By John Rieti
Star investigative reporter turned moderator Robert Cribb put the question straight to online innovator Jim Brady at the Canadian Association of Journalists' Innovation Day on Saturday. "You're hiring 50 journalists for your new project. What are you looking for?"
Brady's first response was a re-cap of sorts, people with an understanding of the online environment, a desire to work with new technology in new ways, and eager to go "steering into the future."
Cribb seemed unconvinced, and asked again what should journalists do to be serious candidates for a job with Brady?
The answer? Tweet. Brady said he followed all of his potential candidates on Twitter to get a feel for their online comfort level. You don't tweet? Brady all but said you will have no chance whatsoever.
Brady's other main piece of advice to journalists trying to catch up with the technological rush was to focus on mobile technologies. Give up on trying to monetize website banner ads, he said, look into the future and get caught up with your iPhone and Blackberry-toting audience.
Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank was another member of the panel that discussed the future of journalism.
Cruickshank said he was still looking for ways to make significant money from the web but was also looking for ways to capitalize on emerging mobile opportunities.
Cruickshank opened the afternoon panel by taking on the CAJ itself, in particular for a news release from the CAJ asking him to hold off on layoffs the Star considered in the fall. He said saving the newspaper shouldn't and couldn't be the publisher's job alone. "Newspapers across North America are losing their memories and their legs," Cruickshank said, lamenting the loss of established reporters and editors along with energetic young journalists.
Rogers Communications chief strategy officer Michael Lee talked about the huge potential of mobile devices but many in the audience had a smaller concern.
"When is Rogers going to drop its data rates?"one wanted to know.
Lee couldn't answer that, but did point out that 28 per cent of Rogers customers had switched to smartphones.
Brady, Cruickshank, and Lee all seemed to agree that mobile is where journalism must fight its next battle in a bid to stay relevant.
"Be brave. Be visionary. Or be irrelevant," closed Brady.
John Rieti is a radio room reporter and studies in the Master of Journalism program at Ryerson University. email@example.com.