Secrets to Success in Journalism, Media and Communication

By Joshua Scibilia, Cooper Luskan, Jason Thwaits, David Thwaits, Dom Elsome

Introduction

In the modern day employment market, success can be hard to achieve. Journalism is not a career immune to this problem. With the rise of blogs and citizen journalism, it is becoming increasingly difficult for a budding young journalist to stand out from the crowd, especially with the ever increasing number of publishing companies. This paper will discuss a number of “secrets of success” in the journalism world. These include Innovation, the ability to bring about change with and through your work, Adaptability, the ability for a journalist to be flexible and useful in any environment, which is essential in a business such as journalism, which can see an employee in almost any environment imaginable. Thirdly, we have Networking, a great way to progress in any career. Networking provides a person with more opportunities, simply because they know more people and can hear about potential employment offers more easily. We finish with Ethics. A strong set of ethics are important for any journalist, as the reader’s trust in the writer is paramount. If the readers feel the journalist cannot be trusted to tell the truth, all their work is devalued.

Innovation

The first secret to success in Journalism, Media and Communication is innovation, the creation of new methods, ideas or products. In modern media, the need for change is essential; adapting to new technologies, knowing how to satisfy audiences, following economic models and updating business processes is all part of the need to innovate to be successful. The methods of innovation include incremental and radical innovation. Incremental innovation is a series of small improvements made to existing products, services, processes or methods (Rouse, n.d.). An example of a media corporation innovating in an incremental way is social media site Facebook, where they continue to innovate their website to suit what their audience wants. Younger adults, who as a group are less engaged than their elders are with traditional news outlets, are as engaged, if not more so, with news on Facebook. News on Facebook is easily found on a person’s news feed where most recent and top stories can be found. This shows anything that might interest the user such as what their friends are doing or worldwide news. Facebook has also created a service where anyone can create articles that are published to users news feeds. This upgrade makes for a faster and more immersive experience for Facebook users than ever before, something that younger generations are looking for when searching for news. Although Facebook is considered very aggressive in the way they innovate their website, it’s not hard to see the kind of success that they have achieved and continue to achieve, something that can be attributed to the constant upgrades and incremental innovation that Facebook use (Facebook, n.d.; Mitchell, Kiley, Gottfried & Guskin, 2013; Dickens, 2011).
Radical innovation is a change that has major impact on a market and on the economic activity of firms in the same market (World Bank & OECD, 2013). This type of innovation can be seen in the creation of social media site Twitter, where they allow people to create accounts and share anything with the world. In 2009 the first photo from the scene of the US Airways plane crash in New York’s Hudson River was posted on Twitter, breaking the news of the crash before traditional media did. Twitter users often follow and report on worldwide events, in 2011, the Arab Spring pro-democracy movement in Egypt unfolded on Twitter. Radical innovation differs from incremental innovation, as radical moves such as the creation of Twitter are more risky but can bring greater rewards (Twitter, 2016). When journalists or businesses choose to innovate, they must acknowledge the risk that comes with innovation, something that is unavoidable. Innovation is a very powerful tool yet many are fearful to pursue new ideas that may not work out. As shown in the examples, both companies took risks and ultimately succeeded in innovating the way they present news and connect with people across the world. The ability to innovate and take calculated risks for your own benefit is a key secret to success when looking to make a career in journalism media and communication (Alon, Koetzier, Club, 2016).

Adaptability

With the field of journalism and media communications changing faster than ever, professionals need to be constantly learning. A key skill for these professionals in the new media age, regardless of the medium they work in, is adaptability (Fernandez, 2013). The term adaptability refers to being able to adapt and make changes in response to the environment or circumstance (Vocabulary.com, 2016). This encompasses the way in which one applies themselves to the progression of technology, the introduction of new media types, the variety of target audiences and also competition within the industry. Innovation, as expressed earlier is a vital part of any journalist’s professional skill set. Innovation results in the development of technology, which leads to the creation of new media platforms and methods in which media content is shared and viewed. In the new age world, traditional values of journalism are thought to be dying out. Through the introduction of online news and social media applications, it is more common for people to go online rather than visiting old-fashioned organizations for news. The decline in print media is shifting the roles of journalism and communication professionals and forcing them to adapt to changing trends or face extinction (Ahmed, 2015). This process requires communication professionals to be readily adaptable and proficient in multiple media disciplines. The age of the journalist who only writes text, or only records audio, or video, is long gone. These respective industries and their organisations all have accompanying websites, filled with an array of media (Bradshaw, 2008). To accomplish something in this industry it is critical to have ability in several forms of media, because it’s almost certain you will change within your career, and very commonly converge forms simultaneously. Part of being a journalism and media communication professional is working with a wide array of audiences. You are expected to be able to strike up a rapport with all kinds of people and effectively convey a message to a range of demographics. Through the popularity of mobile phones and cameras, producing and sharing news is becoming easier. The contribution of content and discussion in an audience can occur without the use of journalists and in turn, technology is making journalistic professionals somewhat redundant (Ahmed, 2015). This brings us back to the idea of adaptability, and the fact that this skill is key to any professional’s success. You are not only undergoing changes in media types, but the way in which you can target your audience is altered and even the way you produce messages within a platform, is subject to competition from amateur journalists in our society. Adaptability is fundamental to a successful career in journalism, media and communication. From an employment perspective, you are far more appealing to an organization if you show you are responsive, flexible and can apply yourself to changing situations and environments in your work and personal life. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” as expressed by Charles Darwin (University of Kent, 2016). Having traits such as these, allows you to take on new challenges at short notice, persist in the face of adversity and respond quickly with alternatives when cases may go wrong.

Networking

No matter what field of work you are in, networking is a great way to progress professionally (Gunderman and Kerridge. 2014.). Ford and Mouzas (2013) refers to business networking as “the conscious attempts of an actor to change the structure or process of interactions within particular relationships or the wider network in which is operates.” Simply put, this is a person interacting with new, unfamiliar people who they would not usually interact with in a way that they create and develop relationships both personally and professionally. In the field of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMC) networking can play a significant role in the progression of one’s career. Bill Gates’ career is a great example of the success involved with networking. His mother, through her own networking, knew the executive of IBM, a large, technology hardware company that funded Microsoft as Gates’ startup. It was through his networking with John Akers (IBM executive) that Microsoft was able to make it past the drawing board (Gunderman and Kerridge. 2014.). The media industry can be extremely competitive and networking may be the reason you get the job that you have been striving for or aid in your careers progression, leading to future opportunities (Gurnden. 2016.). It can not only give access to a diverse set of skills, Gunderman and Kerridge (2014) explain that by connecting with others, there is high chance to receive access to “private” information which may not be available through public or official channels. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is very relevant to this idea. Molly Meldrum, famous in the Australian and International music and entertainment scenes, owes a great portion of his success to networking. He developed relationships with people in various fields, relationships which assisted him in getting where he is today. Through activities such as living with band mates, following writers and attending university functions, Molly incorporated his charisma and talent to use networking to his full advantage (Denton. 2003). As networking has begun to play a large role in personal career and business development, it too has shaped the overall structure of business hierarchy. Gunderman and Kerridge (2014) discuss the spread of “power” through organisations due to networking. The traditional model meant that the higher you were in a company’s hierarchy, the more power you had. This has begun to shift from the vertical to the horizontal, meaning that power has been distributed more evenly through the company rather than a well structured hierarchal form. Take a junior journalist for example. She has been given a task to research a story along with two other more senior journalists. The younger journalist however, has developed a strong network through attending events and business functions. The other two haven’t. In doing so, she has met people who are working in the field that she has been tasked to research, giving her the upper hand through access to information which the other two journalists do not have. This is just a small example of how networking can give power to a new range of employees in the corporate structure.

Ethics

To succeed in your Journalism Media and Communication career, it is imperative that you develop a set of ethics that define and limit how you operate within your profession.  Public perception can make or break a career, and unethical behaviour will cause damage which often proves irreparable. Most media corporations have a set of ethical guidelines that employees must follow, and the MEDIA, ENTERTAINMENT & ARTS ALLIANCE, the union representing JMC workers in Australia, maintains a code of ethical obligations (Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, n.d.). However, it is always the individual’s own responsibility to ensure that any practices are ethically sound, and common sense is often required. Barney Calame said on the need for ethics “…devotion to integrity and ethics is a key aspect of what sets journalism apart from many blogs, press releases, and op-ed page commentary. When we journalists let integrity slip, we become little different from all the other people out there clamouring for the public’s attention.” (Calame, n.d.). An example of the effect ethics, or lack thereof, can have on careers is the News of the World Phone Hacking Scandal (BBC News, 2014). In the pursuit of stories and corporate interests, the News of the World crossed ethical boundaries. The journalists involved have been convicted for the events, and their careers are over, however their actions have not just affected their own careers. The News of the World, at the time the longest running newspaper, was closed down as a result of the scandal, with 200 members of staff losing their jobs (Greene, 2011). This may be one of the most important reason for media ethics; unethical behaviour will not only affect your career, but the careers of others. It can be argued that while the public rarely notices strong ethics in media, they are acutely aware of poor ethical behaviour. This is shown in a report from Roy Morgan Research, in which Australians regarded the media poorly, giving them only a 10% rating for their honesty and ethical standards, despite the majority of media professionals acting in accordance with industry ethical codes (Roy Morgan Research, n.d.). Phil Harding also confirms that when interviewed, a number of journalists agreed that the integrity of their profession was damaged as a result of the phone hacking scandal, despite the vast majority of them having no involvement with the event (Harding, 2013). It is therefore imperative that JMC professionals develop and begin practicing ethical behaviour early, to ensure that incidents similar to the phone hacking scandal do not happen again, and to attempt to regain trust, as without public trust JMC professionals cannot do their jobs. JMC professionals should also continue to review and build upon their ethical codes throughout their career, to ensure that they do not fall behind in terms of public opinion and expectations.

Conclusion

In summary, the current economy makes it increasingly hard to find employment, and the field of Journalism is no exception to this rule. However, there are a number of “Secrets to success” which a journalist can follow to maximise their chances of success. These are Innovation, Adaptability, Networking and Ethics. It is of the utmost importance for a journalist to actively try and improve each of these aspects. This will maximise your chances of employment and success in the saturated and highly competitive job market we live in today. A high standard of ethics is imperative if a journalist wishes to maintain the trust of their readers, and Networking will not only allow the journalist access to job’s others would not have, but also access to private information that is not available to the public. Adaptability is very important, in a world where technology is changing faster than ever, and innovation is at the forefront of all business. A journalist who can adapt and innovate will be able to cope with change in the workplace much easier, leading to better work. If a journalist can follow all four secrets to success discussed here, they will have a much greater chance of achieving success in their career.

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