Our digital world

A UT student visited me at the station the other day.  She wanted to interview me — a media practitioner — about my job and talk about technology.  I think I overwhelmed her.
We talked about how the traditional way media has been looked at is changing.  When I was in school… you chose one path… broadcast or print journalism.  Now there are multiple paths and they are constantly intersecting.  Media outlets that fail to recognize this fact don’t seem to be as successful as those that do.  At my station, the website has taken on new prominence.  It’s not just a place where the newscasts send people for a web link.  Now the reporters contribute and video and other extras are extremely important.  It’s that way at a lot of other places too….
Look at the Statesman.  They break stories on their website… and their reporters are shooting video and recording audio for it.  They’ve got blogs and tons of surveys just to engage their readers.  Talk about a convergence of media.

The student that visited me seemed to be blown away by all of this.  I took her around the building, and one of the people we spoke with talked about how exciting these times are.  We don’t know how exactly media is going to change, but we know its important to be there and change when it does.  We can’t play catch up and expect to succeed.  But he also pointed out how its all of us who didn’t grow up with the Internet and crazy tiers of cable that are having to stay alert and learn all of this… it’s the student’s generation that knows the “digital world.”  They grew up as “digital generation,” and soon they’ll be taking the reigns.

Those words have hung with me.  And I believe them, but after my TSP meeting yesterday, I started to become worried that while the digital generation may instinctively know how media is changing, college communication classes may actually be teaching them old-fashioned ideas.  We had to choose the Managing Editor for the Daily Texan, and the candidates each spoke to us about their qualifications, but when questioned about how the Texan should work with the other student media entities (i.e. television and radio) and the web, they either shunned the idea or seemed hesitant to dive right in and take advantage of the opportunity.  My sense is that the Texan leadership doesn’t seem to understand how important convergence of media is in this day and age.  The Texan should not feel threatened… but instead it should explore and embrace the incredible opportunities out there….

I’m making these comments as an outsider looking in, but also as someone who’s seen a huge shift in how media works in my short 10 years in my industry.  Hell, the Internet barely existed when I started college… let alone blogs, YouTube, and the plethora of other amazing things happening right now.  The audience has changed, and successful media recognize that it will continue to change.  We don’t know where we’re going… but we know it’s going to be a hell of a ride.