“I am the future of journalism because…”

As legend has it, the first words of advice from a famous author who once spoke at a student writer’s conference was simply: What are you doing here?  Why aren’t you at home writing?

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It was in this spirit of jumping right in that at the close of the first session of an advanced reporting workshop I am leading here at NTU, I asked my 15 final-year students to respond to Publish2’s much-publicized “I Am The Future of Journalism” contest.  The contest asked entrants to describe the ins-and-outs of the awesomeness they feel they are bringing to journalism’s reinvention, beginning with the words “I am the future of journalism because…” 

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The official entry deadline has now passed with the start of the new year but I liked the prompt.  It seemed like a decent way to get inside j-students’ new media minds and see what scares them, excites them, and emboldens them about the current state of all-things-journalism and what they feel they can offer amid the madness.

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I honestly had no idea what to expect from their responses.  Upon first read, I must say I’m impressed and intrigued.  Snippets of a few are below: 

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I am the future of journalism because … I have no choice. I am going to graduate into this hell of an economy in 2009 preceeded by horror stories of major media companies conducting massive layoffs in 2008. To be able to continue sustaining what I love to do, there is little choice but to innovate, differentiate and adpat to the diverse publishing platforms there are now which they call ‘future.'”

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“I am the future of journalism because … The future of journalism is you. The casual blog-surfer, the online news-junkie, the tabloid fanatic, the blank-between-the-eyes voyeur. I like to live vicariously too. Getting that adrenaline rush without the adrenaline-pumping action. And like you, I also like telling stories. . . . I am the future of journalism because I am not a journalist. I am a reader and a writer. A consumer and a contributor. I am you.”

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“I’m the future of journalism because I like to write about the lives of the ‘little man’ and what it means for the larger society. It isn’t just about Gaza, or a new Thai prime minister – I leave that to the big press. Social issues, like religion, education, rich-poor divide, wealth distribution, race, linguistic differences between you and me. Who are these people, and what do they go through in their daily lives? What sacrifices have they made and why? How does this fit in with you and me? Why is it so hard to talk about these things? What is the history of this problem? That’s what I want to know. That’s what I want to interpret. That’s what the mainstream media can’t write about, but people need to know about. So here I am, standing in gap. Till then…”

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“My generation- we’ve seen the rise of the World Wide Web. We’ve seen the birth of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Friendster. . . . We played RGB games on floppy disks. We know what a Zip Drive is. Do people even make floppy disks anymore? So i think we’re plenty prepared for the onslaught of new-age journalism. We know how the click of a mouse can send us into hyper-linked hyperventilation. . . . We’ve read books and we’ve read blogs. We’ve seen the transition. We’re going to be the transition.”

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“When people ask me if I am going to be a journalist after I graduate, my immediate answer is no. This is despite the fact that I am a semester away from graduating with a journalism degree. The field is no longer an exclusive domain of journalists, anyone nowadays can start a media outlet to inform, educate and entertain the masses like traditional media, so what place has a journalist? Instead, I want to be a writer, an educator, someone who can make people see things differently. And only if that is the future of journalism, then I can hope that I am it.”

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