State of the media
Journalist practitioners report industry scoop
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 00:02
Stop the presses — journalism isn’t dead.
When the tweets and blog posts of the Web solidified the demand for 24-hour news, the longevity of traditional media came into question. But despite popular concerns about declining newspaper circulation, journalism programs at A&M are looking to expand.
Senior lecturer of journalism studies Ed Walraven is trying to make sure students don’t write off journalism studies.
“We are in the beginning stages of working to come up with a proposal to present something that could be a four-year degree in journalism,” Walraven said. “It is just a proposal at this point. There are many bridges to cross, but I believe in the foreseeable future there will be some changes.”
The director of the journalism studies program and head of the proposal, Dale Rice, said journalism studies is effective, but lacks in comparison to universities that offer a complete four-year plan.
“Do we have a good program? Yes. Can we compete for students who want the degree?” Rice said. “Unfortunately at this time the answer is no and that is why we are trying to issue some major changes.”
Walraven and Rice are aware that in order for these changes to occur, the program must continue to adapt to changes in media consumption. One of the most recognized changes has been the move to new media platforms.
Senior English major Adam Amaya who is also currently involved in the journalism studies program, acknowledged the possibility that most news will soon be consumed digitally.
“It seems like everything is online at your fingertips,” Amaya said. “Our generation has been raised on technology and is not likely to buy a newspaper.”
Apart from journalism studies, Texas A&M offers prospective journalism students another option, one that doesn’t involve the College of Liberal Arts, but instead the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Deborah Dunsford, senior lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications, acknowledged the variety of “hands-on and involved” classes offered through A&M’s agricultural communications and journalism major.
“We have students write for the Houston Livestock shows and construct their electronic newsletter,” Dunsford said. “While we continue to adjust to the changing news outlets, we still offer courses that cover the entire spectrum of journalism and communications.”
Caitlyn Curbello, junior agricultural communications and journalism major, said her major broadens her understanding of communications.
“They offer training programs with many different modern softwares and special internships that not all colleges have connections with.” Curbello said. “They’re even trying to develop a social media course to adapt to the changing media sources.”
Emily Davis, president of the Texas A&M Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, used her intuition when considering the evolution of journalism.
“A lot of newspapers have started charging for access to their websites,” Davis said. “I think it’s a way to modernize. One hundred years ago, newspapers panicked with the invention of radio and then later television was the same story. The important thing to remember is that they survived and can do it again.”
The Washington Post reviewed multiple misconceptions of journalism in an April 2011 column, “Five myths about the future of journalism.” One supposed myth: traditional news media are losing their audience. The Post reported, however, that print media cirvulation rose five percent worldwide in the last five years. And of the U.S. news websites with the highest traffic, 81 percent are traditional media or news aggregators, while some old media are seeing their print and Web audience grow.
The problem isn’t a lack of an audience, but a lack of revenue.
Joseph Sodolak, advertising operations supervisor for A&M’s student newspaper The Battalion, expressed first-hand experience dealing with the difficulty of generating ad revenue.
“While we have adjusted to online ads for our website, the decrease in print media consumption has led to a decrease in advertisers,” Sodolak said.
Jake Walker, managing editor for The Battalion and senior agricultural communications and journalism major, said despite the problem of fewer advertisements in newspapers, he rejected the claim that journalism will soon be a thing of the past.
“Ads provide a majority of the revenue to the newspaper,” Walker said. “The reduced number of advertisers has a direct correlation to the number of stories we can publish in one paper. Regardless, journalism will be around forever; the only change will be in the way we consume it.”
Walker augmented his statement by explaining how The Battalion uses Twitter as a source of leads for stories.
While many newspaper corporations take financial hits, some small community papers are still able to remain afloat.
Amy Lee, publisher of The Huntsville Item and Class of 1996 A&M journalism graduate, said she is not experiencing the same impact from the conversion to online news.
“The Huntsville Item is the only newspaper that covers Huntsville and Walker County,” Lee said. “Nobody will cover a local city council meeting the same way that The Item can. It’s reasons like these that reassure us the change to digital media will not have the same impact on community journalism.”