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Web journalist gives talk on future of online media

The media industry today is not the same as it was 20 years ago. But it is not dying; it is changing, according to CBS News digital journalist Lindsey Boerma who spoke at the University last week.

Boerma told students what it was like to work in the changing field media landscape as well as what journalism will look like for average consumers in the future.

“Newspaper reporters are a dying breed, as we know them,” said Boerma.

Boerma currently works in the Washington D.C. area covering a variety of stories primarily for web. All of her stories are originally written and packaged for the web, though some are later repackaged for a television audience.

“What’s interesting about web content is that no one really knows what to do with it yet,” Boerma said. She said most news groups are mainly posting “watered down versions of the news” or stories deemed “not good enough” for a regular evening broadcast or Sunday morning print edition. She believes digital journalism is beginning to develop its own brand and form.

Boerma, who also covered the 2012 presidential primaries, said developments on stories are hourly, and audience feedback is much more intimate and dynamic.

“It keeps us accountable,” she said. Citizen journalism and sources gathered through social media are making the journalism process easier. It is still up to journalists to sort through the information and fact check, especially since gathering the information is often much easier than it was even 15 years ago, according to Boerma.

Two growing movements in digital journalism are niche news media and sponsored content. Boerma sees sponsored content especially as a “gray area” in the emerging news media landscape. Currently, 69 percent of news media revenue is generated from advertisement, stated an annual report released by the Pew Research Center.

Digital advertising as a whole has greatly increased with the greatest increase in video advertisement, but sponsored content has also been steadily increasing since 2009, according to the same study.

Boerma worries media consumers may not always understand what is and is not sponsored content.

“I’m not sure how to get past that because we need the money,” she said.

In regards to bloggers, Boerma believes they can be a good source of information and readers should support bloggers they feel speak to them. But that does not mean readers should not be careful because many are not vetted by any kind of editor or fact-checker.

“Be wary,” she said. “There comes a time when their content becomes good enough that it does become vetted.”

She further explained that popular blogs are often ‘picked up’ by established news media sites and then they become monitored in a greater fashion.

She has a similar opinion of niche news media. Boerma believes at the moment niche media may threaten well-rounded news, especially the old model of local evening newscasts, which was largely non-political.

“People who have not lived in multiple places are going to be more apt to go to places that feed into what they already believe,” Boerma said.

She said growing up in central Illinois then moving to the East Coast has made this very obvious simply in where people from both of these regions go to get their news.

While niche media and other “gray area” news media is made not only possible but also more likely in the Internet age, “what the Internet provides trumps that,” Boerma said.

Internet multimedia news coverage will only increase in the future, according to current employment trends in the news industry. Pew Research Center looked at 30 main news media groups and found an average of 102 jobs per outlet focusing on digital journalism. At the same time, newsrooms have lost over 18 thousand jobs as an industry since 2000.

“You gotta go wall-to-wall journalism,” Boerma told the Communication students during her talk. “It’s everything.”