One of the big changes in journalism these days has nothing to do the death of print or any other medium. Rather it’s this: journalists have a wide array of new, powerful tools available for news and information gathering.
“I hate the term ‘computer-assisted reporting. It’s as ridiculous term as ‘notebook-assisted reporting,'” said Steve Buttry, The Gazette‘s editor turned “information content conductor,” when we talked for last month’s Corridor Business Journal “Fifth Estate” column on how journalism education needs to change to be relevant.
Indeed, all reporting is computer assisted these days. At least it should be. Google alerts and RSS feeds can push a constant stream of relevant information to journalists (and can be further filtered and refined with tools such as Yahoo Pipes); Twitter, Facebook and other social networks can make finding sources easier; Publish2 and Reporting On give journalists the ability to collaborate with each other (and, now, with readers, too).
Many journalism educators haven’t incorporated these tools (or even more mainstream tools such as blogging) into their classes, perhaps because they’re resistant to change or simply don’t know about them. But computers (and that means the Web) are now integral to a reporter’s job.
Part of the problem with journalism and journalism education moving forward, Mr. Buttry suggested, is the old-school mindset that “computer-assisted reporting,” a now outdated term for the database- and data-driven reporting, is a separate discipline from, you know, “regular” reporting.
So let’s stop wasting time debating whether students or reporters can live without online tools. Whether their producing multimedia, interactive databases, cops-and-courts, education, television, long-form features or wahtever, journalists need to understand the Web. Period.