The generation of the early 21st century understands mainstream media is anything online and old school is anything in print. However, the reality is there is something very soothing about a tactile approach to reading and learning, one that does not depend on batteries or Internet access or is susceptible to privacy issues. It allows one to leisurely and privately explore areas of interest, and then share without the worry of compatibility or Internet malfunction.
Most of my beloved literature is still in print and displayed on a ramshackle bookcase from The Brown Elephant, a thrift store in Chicago. Even though these lovely books sit mostly untouched, while my computer is opened multiple times an hour, I feel a certain kinship with them, as if they were relationships rather than things.
Although, as difficult as it is to admit, many could not survive without a laptop, mini mobile pad or “smart phone.” It is more than convenient when a journalist needs to collect information quickly and accurately. In addition, it is a status symbol of sorts. People can easily engage in mindless discussions about the merit and flaws in the current devices and accessories, and there appears to be actual “camps” of people for or against specific ones. They represent status and compatibility between friends. They can also signal a divide. An example would be a mass text message that included specific visual aspects accessible only by “smart phones” sent out to a group of people, who all but one receives the text, leaving the Flip-Phone owner out of the loop and perhaps mildly embarrassed.
Electronic devices have become appendages for this generation.
Look in any coffee shop, restaurant, and elevator; on any street corner or public transportation, especially in the privacy of one’s home and you will notice that a phone or computer is at arm’s length from their owner. Some fall asleep with their electronic devices, checking them during unacceptable times (funerals, class, etc.) and even giving preferential treatment to their electronic device over a real life interaction with a friend or family member. The typical pedestrian is texting while recklessly running into another pedestrian, but what do the two victims in this collision have in common? They are both texting. It is a victimless crime, one might assume, but in reality the actual victim is society and it’s diminishment of face-to-face human interaction.
Obviously, this suggests mainstream journalism of the future will be predominantly online. The journalism professional is now required to be internet savvy, which requires he or she to have full access to digital information 24 hours a day; then he or she must impart that information accurately and concisely to keep the average reader interested and enlightened.
The field of journalism always attracted curious and assertive people, but with the advent of the Internet as the major mode of information sharing, that journalist will now need more attributes to be successful. These include the necessity to be on call 24/7, much like a medical resident, and ready to make vital decisions in record time regarding what and how information is transcribed and released.
The integrity of the journalist depends on the quality and truthfulness of their information, and this will require speedy access to appropriate sources. Time and timing are valuable assets for the journalist of today and tomorrow and will necessitate a major commitment to the profession. In my estimation, being a journalist of the future is more than a career. It is a passion and a profession that come to define a journalist’s life. With that said, the books on my shelf more and more represent a time of leisure, but they will remain to remind me to indulge once in a while. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.