As print newsrooms shrink and broadcast reporters are stretched to the limit trying to produce more content with fewer and fewer staff, digital journalists are like busy bees, swarming around major news events, and breaking new ground. They are part of a growing field, much of which exploded in the last year.
Who are these reporters and which organizations are they working for? Many of the reporters come from celebrated news rooms, like The New York Times. They may have been the victims of downsizing, or just had enough of the newsroom politics, lack of resources, and threat of cut backs. They have been absorbed by small non-profits digital operations like Charlottesville Tomorrow or, by big commercial sites like the Huffington Post, or other outlets like BuzzFeed, Vox Media, First Look Media, Vice, and Politico.
These sites offer a variety of opportunities for their journalists: some focus on national and international news, others specialize in politics, health, technology, or finance. The Pew Research Center found 30 national and international news sites that account for 60% of all new jobs in digital journalism created in the last five years. It also found 438 smaller digital organizations producing 5,000 full-time editorial jobs.
Some of the smaller organizations include sites where reporters with a heart for local news coverage are working. One example is the Potomac Local News which operates hyper-local sites in Prince William and Stafford counties in Virginia. This site, as well as dozens of others are now serving the public the way their local newspapers once did. The newspapers folded giving birth to local news websites. And, it doesn’t stop there: there are regional and statewide sites like OklahomaWatch.org focusing on statewide issues and decisions made at the state capitol.
For PR professionals this means new opportunities, pitching a new brand of outlets to get client messages to the public, especially if their target audience is a young demographic, 18-35 years of age. It’s easy to grasp the flavor of each site, just by reading the headlines, checking out the graphics and becoming familiar with the editorial viewpoint. It is an exciting new development in reporting that can play to a global audience and carry news around the world – news that is accessible anywhere, any time and to anyone.Since this is a relatively new industry, many news sites have not turned a big profit. Staffs are experimenting with advertising, and other forms of revenue gathering. But what they have going for them is a broad, borderless audience that can follow them from anywhere at any time. This new form of storytelling is committed to connect with young audiences and keep them for generations to come.