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How Hybrid Journalists are Shaping MediaJournalism has radically transformed over the past 20 years. It has shifted away from the more traditional, legacy framework of neutered, impartial reporting and steered toward more perspective-based content, often erring on the side of narrative writing with a tinge of objectivity.

Helping new journalists navigate this changing landscape, The Collegian continues to train and produce trustworthy reporters and editors. While involved with the paper, journalism students are learning not only the how-to of journalism, but are also learning to navigate the social media and 24-hour-a-day news cycle.

Social media, along with the asymmetrical cultural and political polarization of America, has created a vacuum in journalism and media. The mission of legacy media outlets and contemporary, often digital, publications have met at an intersection. Journalists are forced to either decide between the two or adapt to a world where journalism is no longer as singularly and structurally defined.

Journalism departments’ coursework often focuses on teaching students how to work within a tradition media framework. Faculty tends to skew older and come from a generation of newspapers and legacy outlets with daily print runs. Journalism students, as consumers of digital publishing and opinion pieces, are more familiar with the workings of digital, on-demand media.

For better or worse, the writer becomes part of their own product in modern-day journalism. Whether they are adhering to the traditional ways of reporting, like New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow and his pieces on sexual assault, or working for a publication dedicated to reporting truth and a writer’s personal opinion like perspective journalist Matthew Iglesias over at Vox Media, this is the world young journalists are inheriting in a post-Facebook, post-Twitter world.


Social media is a new firebrand in the world of journalism and media. In a social landscape where instant gratification and the cult of personality reigns supreme, it is imperative for any aspiring journalist or media professional to craft a brand and singular social media voice.

The world of media has always been an eyeballs game. Whoever has the most compelling, worthwhile content usually gets the most views. This remains true today, but in addition to bringing in the audience of the outlet, the writer is also including the audience in the narrative. Most outlets require their journalists to be active on social media because engagement is the king of all content creation. People with large audiences often take precedence in job interviews. They have already cultivated a rapport with a certain segment of a given community that the outlet is keen to take interest in.

Even as students, young journalists should be laying the foundation for their future careers. When it comes to social media and young people, there is the risk of misuse or rather improper use. Every media outlet worth its salt is going to do a deep dive into a candidate's social platforms to make sure they mesh well with the company's ethics and general voice.

Incoming journalists can follow the accounts of some of their favorite writers and journalists and study the way they conduct themselves online. They can base their developing presence on these examples, but it is also important to be authentic. Audiences in the modern era value authenticity above all else and easily sniff out inauthenticity in their content creators.

Utilizing multimedia equipment

Often, particularly in startups or local industries, journalists are required to work multimedia equipment. This can include anything from cameras and recording devices to light coding on the backend of the publication web-based portal. This industry is built around immediacy and learning the specifics of multimedia tools is considered a required skill-set for any new, working journalist.

Young journalists who are fresh out of school often start their careers working for local outlets. These outlets often require workers to take photos or videos to post on their specific social media pages as well as social media platforms. Making sure you know the basics of photo-taking and videography is a good start to ensuring the content you share is easily digestible for the audience you are trying to reach and cultivate.

Livestreaming tools such as Facebook Live and Periscope have become important utilities in covering live events such as rallies, important town hall meetings and community events. Journalists should get familiar with how these platforms work both on the surface and more intimately. Knowing the finer details will allow the product created to go above and beyond expectations as opposed to simply meeting them.

In the midst of recent downsizing in the journalism and media industries, photojournalists were often the first to be laid off. This has made understanding the basics of photography and videography creation a necessity for future journalists. Every job-seeking reporter knows how to craft a story and report on a given topic, but knowing how to work a digital single-lens reflex camera and produce video content will be among the skills that set a candidate apart from the fray. In a field that is as saturated as journalism and media, future journalists need as many unique skills as possible to set them apart. Learning how to properly use multimedia equipment and platforms greatly increases the chances of securing a career path.

While the experience and expertise of journalism professors is indisputable and invaluable, today's undergraduates do well to realize that the landscape is quite different than it was when their professors were reporting. In order to win out above other qualified candidates, journalists need to understand the way the game works. Based on what kind of journalist and media personality they want to be, learning to wed what is being taught with what is being experienced is key to having the upper hand during the interview process. Illustrating an ability to mix the old with the new is characteristic of the kind of hybrid journalists that outlets are attempting to nurture.

Over its 114 years, The Daily Collegian has modeled this shift from traditional media to a hybrid model, serving as a perfect training ground for today's journalism students at Penn State. They are learning not only the mechanics of printing a traditional newspaper biweekly with printed ads, deadlines and distribution, but are also learning how to operate in the social media/instant access world of new media. By navigating their own personal online presence tied to their product and engaging their online readership, they are honing skills that can make the difference between finding a good job and landing their dream career.




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