The Ever-Changing Nature of Communication
As American culture continues to evolve, new social norms are adopted in society. Each year, Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries add new words to their ever-growing databases. In 2012, three words that topped the list were “twittersphere,” “Facebook” and “LOL.” Although I’ve only had a chance to witness a mere 18 years of history, I’ve seen bulky tube televisions turn flat, 20-pound personal computers go on major diets and researching in encyclopedias replaced by a woman named “Siri.”
The global media landscape has developed into an atmosphere where laziness surmounts over hard work, and efficiency fosters brilliance and innovation. Although many critique the loss of history and authenticity due to the ever-growing idea spectrum and thinktanks, I believe we are living in a time that would have never been imagined 50 years ago. Stanley Kubricks’ 2001: A Space Odyssey is finally a reality.
On May 1, 2011, I was just one of perhaps a million followers of @TheRock, the world famous wrestler and actor, on Twitter. At about 10:30 p.m. that evening, an unchecked and unnewsworthy tweet by @TheRock surfaced. “Just got word that will shock the world — Land of the free. . .home of the brave DAMN PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!” A long 60 minutes later, President Obama announced to the world that Osama Bin Laden (OBL) had been killed. As a passionate Facebooker and Tweeter, I agree that I never use social media websites as my main source of information, although, I often will look at Twitter to see feedback or reactions to popular stories. Social media has not reached the newsworthy reputation like other online sources of media, but I then realized when my grandparents liked my pictures on Facebook, that may not be the case.
When I was younger, I always aspired to be Brian Williams from NBC’s Nightly News. He possessed a charm and elegance that made every time I watched the news a feeling of listening to history in the making. As I start to look for internships and jobs in the news industry, I have mixed feelings of both fear and excitement. After working one summer at The New York Observer (I was in charge of updating their Twitter page), I immediately panicked that by the time I hit my prime I was going to be forced into a world of blogging, tweeting and posts.
In an attempt to remain a realist, I knew my name would probably never hit the NY Times byline, but I always dreamed of being in a suit and tie in an executive office making cuts and decisions about what’s going to hit the paper the next day. I fear, that this dream is quickly dying. Sure, the future may hold tablets that project digital look-a-likes of the paper, but there is something special about a hard copy, one that you can fold up in and put in your briefcase or open up on the Manhattan subway; there is just a different experience when you try to emulate it through an iPad or an iPhone.
Perhaps the one thing that excites me about our digital future is the idea of speed. Whether it be in print or on television, there is still a delay between the time something happens and the time we call it “news.” Similar to the OBL Twitter example, I look forward to using both social media and new apps like “The Daily Beast” to get top headlines fast.
I imagine that the one thing that will hold its reputation in the future is the esteem of today’s papers. The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, three papers that have shaped our nations history for as long as we can remember. Sure, I imagine people will be looking at new online and digital news outlets for breaking news, but when it comes to reading interesting and hard-hitting stories, the legacy of some of the greatest journalism in history will continue to live on.
We probably won’t see big corporate offices with men in suits smoking cigars anymore — perhaps a world where Skype conferences and text message group chats will be the key way of communicating — but I imagine that there will eventually be a line drawn. The whole excitement towards going digital came out of a fascination towards efficiency; people want things done in the easiest and quickest way possible.
Although it may be convenient to predict room-less board meetings and empty newsrooms, at the same time, I imagine that at some point, the lack of true communication will get in the way of successful news-making. When Emory announced the closing of their journalism program, I quickly panicked. But then as I took a deep breath and a step back, I realized how important my job now was.
Just as the hard-copy news industry is quickly disappearing, as the doomsday clock ticks, I have only three semesters to make my mark and learn as much as I can. In this new rapidly changing environment, it is not only imperative to be in touch with social media but also to be involved with social media. The new meaning of a journalist is one that can tweet, post, broadcast, update and, most importantly, write. New emerging companies want to see employees with skills not only on the page but also in programming, editing and recording, too. These are not skills that can be learned or taught instantly, but as we predict the fate of the news industry, it’s important for me to take steps at moving with the times.
My biggest personal goal as an aspiring journalist is staying current. Maybe writer Aaron Sorkin says it best in his new HBO drama The Newsroom: “Every second you’re not current, a thousand people are changing the channel to the guy who is. That’s the business you’re in.” With that in mind, I used Google to find that quote — perhaps that is the future of industry.
Brett Lichtenberg is a College freshman from Hewlett, N.Y.