How Many Journalists Would Go All Digital If They Could?
3 min read

How Many Journalists Would Go All Digital If They Could?

Kara Swisher, a veteran Wall Street Journal reporter, who has covered the Silicon Valley boom and bust for the print WSJ newspaper, has announced that she’s gone all digital, i.e. she will be writing exclusively for the All Things Digital web site. Which made me wonder how many other journalists would go all digital if they could — and if not, why not?

Kara says she’s going all digital because she doesn’t want to kill any more trees, which although it’s an obvious rationale, is still striking to hear stated flatly by a long-time print journalist of Kara’s stature.

But more striking still were Kara’s other reasons:

  • The future of media is all digital, she has concluded, and she doesn’t want to be left behind
  • She prefers digital journalism for all its advantages

In Kara’s own words:

I would hope, for example, that if I were around riding for the Pony Express and I saw a newfangled car chug on by for the first time, that I would be one of those people who immediately got the fact that life as I knew it was about to change rather dramatically.

Because that’s exactly what I felt when I first saw early blogs, even though it took me many years to do anything about it and even though I
myself had basically stopped getting most of my news and information in print in favor of online.

But now that I am in the pool, so to speak, it feels completely obvious that being part of this medium–which combines all the excitement of discovery that characterizes the best of journalism, with the immediacy of blogging, wherein I can post in minutes what used to take hours and sometimes days–is the only place to be.

It means, for example, I can obsess over stories in ways that you just don’t do in mainstream journalism, coming back again and again to a particular theme or a company or even a person and then drilling down in ways that (hopefully) reveal a lot more to readers.

It also means she can be at the forefront of innovating new forms of reporting, like her already prodigious portfolio of video journalism — it isn’t print journalism, it isn’t traditional TV journalism — it’s something entirely new, uniquely interesting, and only possible with digital media:

So here’s my question — why don’t more journalists follow Kara’s example and go all digital? Some obvious reasons are that journalists:

  • Can’t get a job as a digital journalist
  • Don’t want a job as a digital journalist because it doesn’t pay as well
  • Don’t yet have the skills to be an digital journalist
  • Don’t want to acquire the skills to be digital journalist, i.e. don’t want to change
  • Want to do both print and digital journalism
  • Don’t believe the future is all digital
  • Believe journalism is better in print than digital

Funny thing is, despite having talked to many, many journalists about the future of media and journalism, and having heard all these reasons in various forms and combinations, I’m still not sure what is true for the majority of journalists.

I’m not sure whether it’s primarily an issue of jobs, skills, or perspective on the future of media and journalism.

I’m not even sure whether, on balance, most journalists are yearning to go all digital, or whether they thank their lucky stars every day that goes by without anyone asking them to do so.

I’ve certainly heard all the biases, prejudices, and stereotypes — but it would be more far more interesting to know what is in the mind of most journalists.

Mark Glaser at MediaShift has argued that there’s actually a good market for online journalism jobs, but he also points out that good data is hard to come by.

How many news organizations have offered their journalists opportunities to go all digital? How many have structured the transition of their business to support such a move by some of their journalists? How many have offered training? Is there a general alignment between journalists and news organizations on this issue, or is there a “digital divide”?

Anybody have any anecdotal answers, or know of any data or studies?