What Is Digital Journalism?

Posted January 23, 2020
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Earlier this week, I had both the pleasure and the priviledge of being a jury member for the RTS Television Journalism awards for this year. .  

The RTS is the Royal Television Society.

I was on a jury that was for a category called Digital Journalism.  There are other categories such as Documetary or Breaking News, but Digital was an entirely new category for the RTS.

We had about 15 different submissions from news organizations such as SKY or The BBC or The Guardian and so on.

The problem is that no one can clearly define just what 'digital' means.  Today, pretty much everything is digital.  YouTube is digital but so is Netflix, if you watch it on a phone, which many people do.

A few of the entrants had made a valiant effort to make sure their products were 'digital'. A good deal of the stuff was shot vertically.  There were, in some of the pieces, a lot of quick cuts, multiple split screens, graphics galore and the kinds of effects you see most often on SnapChat or TikTok.

I think a lot of this has to do with an attempt to attact a 'younger' demographic, most of whom have already migrated to Facebook or YouTube or TikTok for their 'news'.  You can draw your own conclusions here.

What struck me, more than anything else was not so much the submissions but rather the ensuing discussions about what constitutes 'digital journalism'.

Many years ago, I sold one of my companies to Punch Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, and in doing so, became, for two years, the President of New York Times Television - a new business.

As it happened, I was at The Times at exactly the same moment that Martin Nisenholtz had launching NYTimes. com, the paper's website.

In those days ,there was a great deal of discussion about what constituted 'Online Journalism'.  As with 'digital journaism' today, the web journalists were considered a kind of bolt-on to the paper.  

NYTimes.com was not housed in the main offices of the paper. Rather it was sequestred a few blocks away in an office building.  The reporters, like those who work with iPhones, were all young and eager, but their work was relegated to a kind of interesting but experimental ghetto.  

Of course, as we all now know, the online experiment in newspapers went on to eat up the paper until the paper part was considered the kind of old, bolted on anachronism.  Quaint, but largely unwanted.

I tend to think that the same is going to happen to 'digital journalism'.

Online digital nonlinear video news journalism is going to simply devour organizations like SKY or The BBC (if they survive at all), and the best course for them is to embrace it as aoon as possible.

The measure of the best 'digital' pieces, in my opinion?"  The best reporting, the most compelling stories, the most engaging shooting and storytelling.

Whiz bang graphics, TikTok editing to me are nothing but distractions and annoying. 


What is NOT digital?


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