Storyful Blog

Guest post: @DJBentley on launching a journalism career in 2012

When I started studying journalism at university in 2009, professionals I spoke to would say to me: “I’m jealous. I’d love to be starting out now.” Which, considering the state of the news industry, always seemed like an odd thing to say. But it was technology, not economics, that had people excited.

In 2009 Twitter was still in its early stages, news organizations were just getting to grips with how to use it effectively and it was a long way from the 500 million users it has now. Companies like Storify, Storyful and Instagram hadn’t launched. Facebook was for your social life and Tumblr was used by a handful of teenagers.

Never in my three years of journalism education did I imagine I would work as a reporter for a traditional news organization.

At that time everyone was talking about citizen journalism, liveblogging and hyperlocal as the “future of news”, and I and many others jumped on them and embraced them. Now, liveblogging and user-generated content are staples of the news process, where hyperlocal, despite many peoples’ best efforts, has failed to live up to its promise.

Never in my three years of journalism education did I imagine I would work as a reporter for a traditional news organization. Not because of the limited opportunities, but because the digital future seemed so exciting. I was enchanted by this brave new world where the Guardian would release a new initiative every week or there would be a new “must-have” app for journalists.

If I spoke to a 2012 intake journalism student I’m not sure I would express the same sentiment as that which was expressed to me. I’m not sure I would like to be starting out now. Never mind that my university fees were about a third of what this year’s intake will pay. But they are also starting out in a much more competitive and sophisticated industry.

Three years ago journalism students could get themselves noticed by being extremely active on Twitter, or starting their own hyperlocal news site. Now it’s taken as a given that you’re an adept user of social media and it’s hard to impress someone with your blog.

Where can today’s journalism student make a dent in a seemingly saturated digital world? I’d say video and mobile.

For the 2010 British general election myself and three other students from the University of Central Lancashire went to Preston’s Guild Hall to liveblog the ballot count. The reporter from the local newspaper was making shorthand notes with a pen and paper and their story was in print over 24 hours later. That wouldn’t happen now.

So where can today’s journalism student make a dent in a seemingly saturated digital world? I’d say video and mobile.

Video isn’t new, and even online video isn’t new, but it is definitely growing. Established media such as the Wall Street Journal are investing heavily in video, as are new media companies like Huffington Post and BuzzFeed, the latter with Now This News. Why? Because it’s easier and cheaper than ever to produce, and thanks to the widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets, increasingly ubiquitous WiFi and next generation 4G networks, it is much easier to consume. When I moved to New York three months ago nearly every interview I went on was for something video-related and I kicked myself for not having video skills of a higher standard.

Mobile is nothing new either. News organizations have had mobile-optimized sites and apps for a few years now (though I’d question how ‘optimized’ a lot of sites are.) But it’s also growing, and at breakneck speed.

In fact, mobile was where I got my first break just over a month ago when I was hired by news app Circa ( as a contributing editor. We’re a young team of 13 journalists creating content especially for mobile, and we’re expanding. If I were a journalism student now I’d be thinking of innovative ways in which mobile can be used to tell a story. I’d be experimenting with tools like n0tice, a project from Guardian Media Group, which has a set of APIs and features that allows users to publish and read short, geolocated reports on a smartphone. Mobile as its own unique medium is still nascent and there’s plenty of room for innovation. Don’t just take my word for it: When Arthur Sulzberger Jr. announced the appointment of Mark Thompson as the new president and CEO of the New York Times he said: “Our future is on to video, to social, to mobile.”

My final piece of advice to students would be this: use your time wisely. You will never have an opportunity to experiment as much as you can while studying. Don’t just write for the student newspaper, blaze your own trail. My colleague Joseph Stashko put a lot of us to shame by developing liveblogging software Ocqur and running hyperlocal news site Blog Preston all while studying for a degree. You have no excuses.

Good luck.

Daniel Bentley is contributing editor at Circa. Read more about Circa here.


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This entry was posted on November 20, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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