Guest post: Online media — a better connection

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, will write guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the third of those posts. Josh Britton is a junior journalism major from Monroe, N.C. After he gets his degree, he hopes to attend Duke Divinity School and become a United Methodist pastor.

While online journalism is on some level bad news for the nostalgic newspaper lovers, it opens an exciting new realm of opportunity for everyone. Where journalism was once mostly a one-way relay of information, we as journalists now have the opportunity to engage in alternative forms of mass communication where our readers can have significant input. Our media is now more interactive than ever before, and that makes it a very exciting time to work in journalism.

When I told my parents that I had decided to pursue a degree in journalism, I was expecting to hear excitement in their voices. However, instead of excitement or encouragement, I was met with skepticism and doubt. They are concerned about my future, and understandably they would be upset if I chose a course of study with no future.

As I began taking classes in our beloved j-school, I must admit that I too had my doubts. It seems like I was constantly made aware of how newspapers were downsizing and how the print jobs were on their way out. The notion that the glory days of journalism are coming to an end seems rather ubiquitous in our society, at least from my experience. However, I am excited to see how the field of journalism expands into a more effective means of communication in the next few decades.

With online elements, the potential of media networks to connect with their audiences is incredible. Instead of simply reading articles and/or perhaps writing a letter to the editor, our audiences can comment on stories, interact with Flash presentations or submit videos and provide valuable opinions and information.

Online journalism helps us to better connect with our audiences by not just telling about an experience, but sharing that experience with them. A recent example of this has been the coverage of the Haiti earthquake. Web sites from more traditional media outlets such as CNN and ABC news, as well as blog sites such as The Huffington Post have moved past traditional storytelling to share the experiences of the earthquake victims and relief teams. By no means does this replace the actual emotional experience of the events, but it is undeniable that this shared experience has more of an impact than words on a newspaper or even five minutes of television news coverage. Our users are controlling their experience, and we as editors are allowing them to do that.

In some ways, I was scared of going into editing. Blogging and social networking Web sites have given some media sources a run for their money as every day people step into the role of “editor.” However, because the wide variety of programs used in online production, professional editors are still in demand to create and publish high-quality presentations. Editors need to maintain some level of proficiency in a variety of programs, while maintaining the values of traditional news editors.

The skills of online editors may be different from those of print editors, but there is still some overlap. Editors of all forms of media need to make professional judgment calls and responsible decisions.

In conclusion, the field of online journalism presents an exciting opportunity. Despite the uncertainty of its future, it is clear that editors will keep working to create better experiences for and deeper connections with their audiences.