The Future of Journalism in a Digital World
Freelance Journalism Writing Course at NZ Writers College

Five ways you can upskill your writing for a digital future.

By HEIDI WARD

There is no doubt technology has completely transformed written journalism. One simple click and an article can reach millions worldwide. With that comes a saturated market, misinformation and ‘fake news’. A writer has direct access to their audience and at the same time walks a fine line between scrutiny and accountability.

While digital media has benefited writers in numerous ways, it also presents challenges. As the online landscape is constantly shifting, how can we prepare for the future of writing in this digital world?

Here are five ways to stay ahead of the game in the digital future:

Continual learning will be vital for a journalist

Upskill or risk becoming irrelevant. It really is that simple and that brutal. The written word will not always be enough. According to the Ponter Institute, writers will need the same curiosity, writing skills and ability to discern facts as do today’s journalists, but will increasingly need to create and edit photos, video, and live stream across various platforms. All this via apps on your smartphone. Get creative, keep learning, and stay in the game.

A writer’s accuracy of truth is more important than ever

The rise of misinformation and ‘fake news’ makes verifying sources more important than ever. Fine-tune your research and do your own fact-checking. Check and check again. When in doubt, leave it out. It will become increasingly imperative to ensure every inch of a journalist’s work can be verified. A writer’s integrity relies on accuracy and authenticity. Choose your sources wisely.

An increase in independent journalism

As the traditional walls of press media break down, the rise of independent journalism takes hold. The increase of unbiased subscription-based platforms, such as Medium and Substack, will allow journalists to distance themselves from the dominance of mass media giants. Substack is already attracting many high-profile writers, such as award-winning Glenn Greenwald, indicating a trend in coming years. A writer can choose which posts they publish for paid subscribers and those they publish for free. This direct relationship of writer to the consumer gives a writer far greater earning potential, which will undoubtedly appeal to many.

The rise of AI in journalism

There are already news-writing bots producing articles online. Software such as Heliograh trialled by The Washington Post will be more prevalent in years to come. A recent Reuters Institute survey found over two-thirds of their participants believed AI would have the biggest impact on journalism in the next five years, be it automation or device-based apps to enable efficiency.

A connection with readers will strengthen a writers presence

The way people access their news and information has changed. People are no longer exclusively reading directly from major news organisations and instead choosing to access their news from social media platforms. This creates an opportunity for an independent writer to build a relationship with their readership and create their own brand and identity as a writer. This ability to directly connect with their audience will build trust and loyalty. Additionally, co-collaborating with your audience adds value as their voices become part of the story.

The landscape of digital journalism may shapeshift in the future, but the core values will almost certainly remain. Quality of work, ethical integrity, and honouring your readership will be as important as ever. Keep learning, keep thriving, and above all, believe in what you do.

About the Author

Heidi Ward is an enthusiastic writer who enjoys drawing on the ordinary that people can relate to. Heidi lives on the Kapiti Coast with her two kids and teaches yoga.

She also works part-time in a small local business with big dreams that is striving to build its presence online using powerful content writing.

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