Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, had some old news for the science journalists at the Knight science journalism symposium in Boston.
The role of the journalist is changing in an age where the old metaphor of gate-keeping no longer applies, he told them. This is pretty obvious. More interesting is a discussion of the new roles for journalists.
Rosenstiel outlined four potential roles:
- Authenticator: Help the audience figure out what to believe, what can they trust
- Sense-maker: Help the audience derive meaning from what is happening in the world
- Navigator: Help the audience find their way around a story, point them to the “good stuff”
- Forum-leader: Help the audience engage in a discussion in a knowledgeable way
Journalists should be doing some of these things anyway, such as authenticating facts. And making sense is a key role of the journalist. A story without meaning is worthless.
Interestingly, one of the questions from the audience was whether they should link to the sources mentioned in a story, worried that they would be driving readers away from the article.
The thing is, people are going to go to those links anyway. As Rosenstiel pointed out, providing these links adds value to your work and builds up the role of a journalist as navigator.
I have said this before, and Rosenstiel mentioned it in his talk – journalism is shifting from being a a product to a service and, with this, a news outlet shifts from being a final destination to being part of a network.
To survive and flourish in this digital world, journalists need to adapt and evolve. These new roles are a good starting point for a discussion on the future of journalism.