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NABJ Keeps Up Focus on Digital

By Kelcie C. McCrae
NABJ Monitor

Digital media is a hot topic in newsrooms across the country. So newsrooms are scrambling to adjust.

NABJ is trying to help its members with this change.

“The important thing is for NABJ to be able to train its members on digital media,” said Bob Butler, NABJ vice president of broadcast. “This is no longer a skill, but a requirement.”

This year, NABJ is helping its members adapt through a series of digital journalism workshops. The convention featured several workshops, including “The Mobile Revolution.” “We want to help them make that shift,” said NABJ Vice President of Print Errin Haines.

The workshops couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. In May, New Orleans’ main newspaper, the Times-Picayune, announced that it would shift to a three-times-a-week publication schedule, and focus on its website, Nola.com.

Haines said this has presented fear among journalists, especially within the print realm.

“The fear is, ‘Journalism is going away,’ and that’s not true,” she said. “Do you really think the New York Times is going to be gone in five years? No. There just is not going to be ink on my fingers.”

News organizations are following their audience on several fronts: apps for smartphones and tablets, and delivering news on social media.

“There’s an app for everything,” said Ebony Washington, a recent graduate of Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia.

She said that people now want quick news. They are no longer waiting for the morning newspaper or the evening newscast. Instead, readers are literally getting news at their fingertips with increasingly more smartphones.

Butler stressed the big push is to get the mid-career and veteran journalists on board with the new changes. He said young journalists are a part of a digital generation and possess skills that some older people know nothing about.

Despite that, it’s no excuse for them not to learn.

“Some people don’t want to take the time and learn it,” he said. “But you either learn it or leave.”

This change in focus has presented some challenges to the industry. As layoffs and furloughs are becoming common in newsrooms, Haines said alternative opportunities in entrepreneurship may be plentiful.

“That is how Politico was started,” she said. “Entrepreneurship empowers people to do their own thing.”

Ricky Clemons understands this opportunity. Clemons spent several years in public relations. He recently launched his own sports show on XM radio “The Sports Insider with Ricky Clemons,” based in the Washington, D.C., area.

“It’s what I wanted to do,” Clemons, who also a communications professor at Howard University, said. “This new digital platform has opened an opportunity for me to have my own show.”

Haines said this not the end of journalism. This is a time of transition similar to the introduction of radio and television.

“It’s the new reality,” she said. “I don’t think this is a death nail for journalism.”

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