OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES OF A CAREER IN ONLINE JOURNALISM
•I understand online journalism simply as the kind of journalism one practices using the Internet. Journalism involves the process of gathering, compiling and disseminating information or news especially to people who need it.
•According to Wikipedia, online journalism is also known as digital journalism and it is defined as a new form of journalism where editorial content is disseminated through the internet.
•This differs from distributing news through print or broadcast media.
•In the previous decades before the rise of the Internet, there were traditional ways of publishing news or stories happening in society including newspapers, radio and television.
•However, the trend has changed as we continue to witness a shift to the internet and today it is one of the widely used channel for information gathering and distribution.
•Online Journalists are able to break stories in different forms easily and faster, keep updating on new developments, source information from people all over the world, reach specific target audiences, have discussions, which all makes journalism easier.
•This shift to online journalism has provided a number of opportunities for a career in this field.
•Felix Salmon (2015) explains a career as the sequence of jobs and positions that one has over the course of their working life.
•With online journalism, journalists are now able to blog. One can generate, publish and share content with the world, even in real time.
•This enables a journalist to go beyond reporting for the media house by writing stories from a personal perspective and in various forms. This helps to enhance creativity which is important for one’s career.
•Blogging makes a journalist more visible as an individual and relevant.
•One can do photo blogging, video blogging or live blogging
•Online writing/reporting: a journalist can now take advantage of the increasing demand for news on the internet by writing or reporting stories for an online newspaper, radio or television station by packaging them in the way people need them.
•Data visualization (visual story telling makes stories easier to understand, interactive and more memorable). It is helpful for one’s career because this person understands how to compare situations, is able to point out a particular pattern easily, cite trends in a story, eg maps, tables, pie charts, lines, cartoons.
•Online editor (Ensures stories are of good quality, meet standards for online stories, are relevant to people and sieve out what should or should not be published.
•Social media manager (create accounts that keep people connected with a each other and with a media house, create content for them when and however they want it, receive and reply feedback from people, manage content from people on a social media site like Facebook, You-tube, Twitter)
•Pod-casting (producing and publishing audio and video material that is consumed on the internet)
•Online journalism trainer
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•High level of competition: just like there is an explosion of online platforms for online journalists, the number of people doing journalism online has increased over the years.
In turn, audiences are presented with so much information from many different people which reduces the attention given to certain websites because it is hard to go through all the news websites.
•Competition also limits the number of advertisers one is able to have which translates into low advertising revenues.
Small audiences: as much as the use of the internet is fast growing, it has not yet hit the level where most people in a society use internet to satisfy their information needs.
•In a country like Uganda, people are still computer illiterate or do not have access to the internet. This is discouraging for someone pursuing a career in Online journalism because they have to compete for the small audience available.
•The need to get ahead of competition has forced certain online journalists to break the fundamental values of journalism. This is common when online journalists break stories without enough verification of facts. This questions their credibility.
•Criticism from audiences. Audiences are still adapting to the new trends that digital media presents for example the power to share personal thoughts on an issue, to break a story at any time. Some audiences always question the accuracy of information published on certain news websites.
•Self advertising for companies. This is a challenge for an online journalist who hopes to reap profit from his news site because organisations can create their own websites or social media platforms and advertise there, meaning they might not need to advertise on a media house website.
•Copy and paste journalism. The main task of some online journalists in a media house is to copy and paste exactly what content has been published in the newspaper, (http://en.ejo.ch/specialist-journalism).
•These journalists sometimes simply copy information from press agencies like the BBC or even just translate foreign news. This hinders them from producing original content because they do not have the time to since news has to be quickly posted on the website.
•Online journalism offers opportunities which if well utilized, offer a chance for career development. Some of these opportunities seemed impossible decades ago due to the structure of traditional media.
•Despite this, one cannot undermine the challenges faced by online journalists in a bid to grow their careers. Some challenges act as barriers of entry into the field which deprives some people from getting the information they need.
However, this is set to change as more people will embrace and understand the importance of online journalism.