A Reflection On What It Means To Be A Journalist Today: The Freelancer Chameleon

If someone wanted to be a journalist before the Internet era, the path to follow was simple: get a degree media-related, gain experience through internships and make contacts. Today, there is a multiplicity of pathways one can take before entering the field, up to the point that it is often recommended to specialised in another field before making the first steps into journalism.

Since most media outlets made massive investments in the Internet at the end of the 90’s, seeing it as a ripe fruit almost-ready to be picked up, it is easy to get an idea of what journalism is turning into. The tendency is confirmed by graphics that all seem to convey a single idea: Less and less people are employed in the newspaper publishing business. The same phenomenon seems to show for magazines and other types of publications.

Does this mean there is a crisis in the world of journalism? Not necessarily. There is something important happening that cannot be simply vulgarised as a crisis. Audiences are migrating online because information is easier to find on the World Wide Web. Therefore, outlets need to adapt in order to survive the change. When TV broadcast was first launched, newspapers feared it would have an impact on their selling even though it didn’t seem to affect it: people kept buying newspapers. People like reading newspapers and they will always enjoy it, but this is not the point here. Internet appears as a new way to deliver information on different platforms: video, writing, radio broadcast… the list goes on. This is the reason why nowadays journalists ought to be like chameleons, able to master all sorts of skills: broadcasting, radio and writing. Moreover, technical skills and a broad knowledge of the Internet are a big help if you want to get in the field.

If Internet is having an impact on journalism and journalists, it has also offered the possibility to those who did not have a say to use social platforms to make themselves heard. Indeed, with the ever-increasing means at our disposal, it has become ridiculously easy to make oneself a place online. With just a few clicks, anybody can create a blog. Anyone could potentially be a journalist. After all, what makes the journalist: degree or skills? And that’s not the end to it; people are starting to master journalistic skills that they need to develop ‘in order to survive in a networked information age’ where they have become news consumers (Mark Deuze, 2008). If the difference between journalist and blogger is just semantic, they sometimes appear to share the same skills.

Today, media outlets no longer seek to employ people, and anyone could have his own version of a story appear on a national newspaper website. Freelancers are sought because they cost less than employees. It is financially more advantaging to rely on a few freelancers paid according to their work than on an employee paid at the same rate every month. Hence, one cannot stress enough the need for journalists to be able to work independently, develop a variety of skills and be autonomous. However, how can one stand out in the middle of a sub-field where more and more people tend to engage (and not only in journalism)? That is a question to which I unfortunately haven’t got an answer yet. This blog will officiate as a personal reflection on how to be creative, entrepreneurial and intelligent in order to strive in journalism, motivated by my own personal reflections. Welcome.

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