Journalists and journalism students should start thinking about how they read they read on the Web and make their online coverage reflective of that, Chet Rhodes, assistant managing editor for news video at the Washingtonpost.com, told students Friday.
Originally people thought the Web had an “endless” news hole, but statistics are showing that’s not the case, at least in the view of readers, Rhodes said. The news audience tends to be busy and wants quick hits providing exactly the information it wants without having to exert much time looking for it, he said.
Because of this, figuring out the Web is about discovering the right navigation – how to drive people through or to a package, Rhodes said. Washingtonpost.com staffs spend time thinking about how users will use their creations and do testing to see what’s effective. TimeSpace, a new feature that aggregates content based on location and time, and plots it on a map, is one example of a feature to help people navigate coverage. Only in the past year has the ability to analyze data about viewership become more manageable, he said.
More people read the Washington Post online than in print, but 75 percent of the Post’s revenues still come from its print newspaper. Rhodes describes the state of the industry today as one of the most, if not the most, turbulent time in the industry with the most aggressive news cycle.
The changes in the industry have blurred the lines of journalism. Today, there is no such thing as a “professional” journalist, Rhodes said. Anyone who is willing to tell the truth and follow a code of conduct, like that created by the Society of Professional Journalists, could be considered a journalist, he said.
“In the end, the audience decides who the journalists are,” Rhodes said.
The next generation of journalists are those who use convergence. Chris Cillizza of The Fix is a model for this, blogging, gathering video, using Twitter and going on TV, Rhodes said. Over 200 Washington Post reporters have video training and the online office has two video divisions: news video and documentary video.
The most valuable skills for a journalist, however, have not changed significantly, Rhodes said. Journalists need to have news judgment, the ability to write clearly and succinctly and be hungry to tell great stories, he said.
-Derek Casanovas and Jasmine Linabary
Want to hear more from Rhodes? Check out the video below: