Archive for the ‘Future of Media’ Category


Ethics and authenticity

At NPR’s headquarters in Washington, two sets of keyboards, both connected to microphones, appear before a musician. He sits down and performs three tracks from his album – a performance that is as intimate as it gets, a performance that is powerful and can showcase talent.

His name is Sampha – a singer, songwriter and producer from south London who has come to DC for a Tiny Desk concert, part of the All Songs Considered series, and as it provided some very good background music as I made research calls today, it also made me think.

Although this is a performance, there is a lesson that can be taken from it for journalists – the ability to be authentic, amid the competition of being the first at everything.

In this age where social media has helped organizations disseminate news, information and other content, it has also been a more competitive environment. Who can get to Twitter the quickest with that exclusive or that first bit of new information? Who can I tell first about that story or that performance?

Its a tricky situation, because sometimes in the rush of getting it out there, some errors are made when it comes to information, or you feel because you wanted to be first you couldn’t do justice to the story you wanted to tell, or because that FOI officer with the government in San Diego didn’t respond to your request that an element of the story was missing. When all is said and done, you feel uneasy and concerned, wondering if you did your best work that day.

Allow me to say this: Breathe – it’s okay.

In this social media age, some emphasis has been made on likes for quantity, not quality. (Photo: Pixabay)

The Society’s Code of Ethics calls on journalists to seek truth and report it, that one should be responsible for the accuracy of the work, and that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

I think however in this social age it has become more than that. It is a reason to be authentic, to go in-depth, to do some uniquely awesome stuff for your audience.

Take these Tiny Desk concerts, for example – these concerts take time and precision. A performance cannot be rushed. A performance is a story, after all – you don’t want it to abruptly finish when clearly the storyteller has more to write or the performer has more to perform of the song.

You could also make the same argument for that interview on Fresh Air or that report you hear on All Things Considered or Morning Edition – stories and interviews that probe and provide context cannot be rushed, and shouldn’t end when there’s more to be seen.

There is room for these in-depth stories, and an appetite for them, whether its a long narrative in the New York Times, on NPR’s web site or in podcast form. Indeed, some of this in-depth stories recently helped NPR to achieve record audience figures.

Yet, in the world of in-depth stories, also exists is the world of deadlines – deadlines which must be met. Even if its a quick story you’re going to do, there still is an opportunity to be authentic. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are some unanswered questions that come from it?
  • Is there an under-reported part of this story that can be incorporated? If it can’t be done immediately, can it be for a future story?
  • Is this angle just to help with space or time – or can it really help my audience understand the story better?

In this age of journalism, I favor stories that take time to tell – something that can go beyond what is reported daily. If that approach is taken, I know my audience will get something that is not just helping them understand the world around them, but I’m also offering something authentic.

So when you’re thinking about your story, take a step back. Think about the subject and the type of story you want to tell. Give yourself an excuse to go beyond the norm, and to experiment.

Then take the time to do it, channeling not just your role to seek truth and report it per the Ethics Code, but this – it is not only better to be right than be first, but to do something well instead of doing it at all.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Women are the future

“The future of media looks like this.”

That is how a tweet from Josiah Ryan, a senior producer for CNN in New York, began when discussing the recent front page cover story on the network from The Hollywood Reporter.

Featuring the network’s chief executive, Jeff Zucker, and other journalists and personalities, including Jake Tapper, Anthony Bourdain, Casey Neistat and W. Kamau Bell, the story focused on the future of the network in the digital age.

The tweet however, became subject of rampant criticism from others in the industry as well as other Twitter users, notably for the absence of women on the front page, and the message the tweet sent in the replies.

The criticism also came as the tweet was shared.

This week, International Women’s Day is observed – a day to recognize the achievements and contributions women have made around the world, including in journalism. This also coincides with the celebration of Women’s History Month.

There has been a recent increase of women studying journalism, and indeed there are prominent women in digital journalism, including Katie Hawkins-Gaar at the Poynter Institute, Tory Starr and Raney Aronson-Rath at WGBH in Boston, Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post, Tamara Keith and Sarah McCammon at NPR, Asma Khalid at WBUR in Boston, Meredith Artley at CNN (and the past president of the Online News Association) and Laura Davis at the University of Southern California, as well as the women whose tweets are quoted in this piece and others who work to keep this industry strong.

This also is the first year that the executive leadership at SPJ has been led by three women – President Lynn Walsh, President-Elect Rebecca Baker and Secretary-Treasurer Alex Tarquinio. Additionally, 14 of the 23 seats on SPJ’s Board of Directors are held by women, while of SPJ’s 9 committees, 4 of them have women listed as chairs or co-chairs. Also, in SPJ’s 5 active communities, 4 of them have women serving as chair or co-chair.

Indeed, SPJ members like Walsh, Baker, Tarquinio, Robyn Davis Sekula, Rachel McClelland, Kathryn Foxhall, Sarah Bauer Jackson, Elle Toussi, Dana Neuts and Dori Zinn, in addition to other SPJ members nationwide and those who work behind the scenes at its headquarters in Indianapolis, play significant roles in the development of the future of media.

All of these women have something in common. Every day, at their outlets, be it a broadcast outlet, a web site or a newspaper, they inform, educate and engage. They help the public make sense of events, and help the world cope better.

The future of media is something that will continued to be discussed, questioned, debated and dissected. Yet, there is something necessary to the future of this industry – women. Their ideas are quintessential to the development of the future. Their contributions allow journalism to be stronger, and they inspire me to help make journalism better.

The debates may continue, but one thing is for certain – women are the future of media, and we must never take them, their ideas or their contributions for granted – ever.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Perspective: It’s important

Students at USC’s Annenberg School have reinforced the importance of perspective and ideas in the digital age. (Photo: Bobak Ha’Eri/Wikimedia Commons)

Last month, Laura Davis of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism curated a series written by her students about how products affect trust with news organizations.

Journalism, in all its forms, finds itself in a quandary as the digital age. Yet, it goes beyond the consumption of it – but how trust can be maintained and ethics can be preserved. We are in the midst of a significant conversation that will ultimately build how we go about work in this industry – and no angle or factor is spared.

This conversation also evolves those who are looking to pursue work in this industry. Everyone who seeks to come into this industry does so for the same reasons – to inform, educate and stimulate the public. The ways that the news is disseminated will evolve, but the goal, as the former public editor of The New York Times (now Washington Post media columnist) Margaret Sullivan put it, remains the same – a reason to be optimistic:

“What matters is the journalism, not the medium. It’s happening before our eyes, and while there’s clearly reason to worry, there’s reason to hope, too.”

If Davis, her colleagues at Annenberg and her students have done anything through this albeit brief project, it is the need for perspective. The ideas of those who will be the future of this industry are just as important as the ideas of those currently in it – for when all is said and done, these ideas can strengthen and bolster journalism, confirm its quintessential importance for our democracy, and give the reason for why our profession’s work is a necessity.

So thank you, Annenberg students, for sharing this insight. May you continue to do so, and may your teachers and professors encourage you to do so.

Along the way, may you encourage other journalism students to do just the same – for we’ll need your perspective, now, and in the years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The world and its stories

The New York Times is trying to increase its readership outside the US, which may have long-term effects beyond engagement. (Photo: alextorrenegra/Flickr)

The New York Times is trying to increase its readership outside the US, which may have long-term effects beyond engagement. (Photo: alextorrenegra/Flickr)

Recently, The New York Times did something rather interesting when it came to its coverage of the forthcoming presidential elections. It assigned a foreign correspondent to cover them, allowing for not just an interesting way to cover these elections, but also an indication of trends in media and how they will impact storytelling overall.

The Times assigned Declan Walsh, its Cairo bureau chief, to cover the elections in the same way he would a foreign story, for a series called Abroad in America. Thus far, he has written about both conventions, as well as the role of coal country in voting and the issue of women in US politics.

His column, according to an article from the Nieman Lab at Harvard University, is being edited and run through the international desk at the Times, though Walsh does consult with its politics team.

In an interview with the Lab, Walsh said the column was part of the recognition by the Times about digital readership — that much of it was outside the United States, and as a result, there was potential for such content.

“It speaks to the balance that the paper has to achieve, especially in stories that are about the United States, in writing stories about things in the US that foreign readers are very interested in, but they do not have the same degree of familiarity with or the same cultural connectors that a reader would in the United States,” Walsh said.

This initiative is part of broader work the Times is doing to expand its international readership. It recently created NYT Global, a $50 million effort over the next 3 years to expand this work, and, according to the Lab, it sees potential when it comes to attracting paying subscribers from outside the US.

Though the move is strategic on the part of the Times, this decision speaks to a larger trend in the world of journalism, largely influenced by the internet — a trend that comes off of the idea of the global village, a theory from the Canadian communications scholar Marshall McLuhan, where new technologies would be making the world smaller, connecting more and more people, no matter their location. This was part of his core theory, the medium is the message.

Indeed, the internet and the social media age have influenced how we consume news, and where we get our news from. The global age has influenced our ideas of media brands — alongside the BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, The New Yorker, the Financial Times and NPR come other sites including BuzzFeed and Vice. More people are getting access to content, either online streaming or through podcasts, whether its Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Cafe from CBC Radio in Canada or other podcasts from public broadcasters or other sites.

As a result, news organizations like the Times are thinking more globally as far as their reach, and while the Times is a unique case, it does show how far reaching stories can be in this digital age. While it is unclear if the Times plans similar ideas for other stories down the road, it is an indication that as the mediums that journalism are being disseminated through increase, the idea of how we tell stories will change, whether global in scope or local in nature, no matter the beat, even though the first priority is the immediate audience.

It also means that there will be more sources and web sites available for information, leaving news organizations to be creative when it comes to engagement strategies surrounding stories.

While the mediums themselves will be changing, one thing hasn’t — the mission of journalism, to inform, to engage, to stimulate, and to enlighten. Though we may need to be creative about how we do it in the near future, it is better than an alternative — a world without journalism.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The need for journalism

Last night, John Oliver used humor to make a point about the future of this industry.

A portion of his HBO program Last Week Tonight was devoted to a look at journalism, and the future of newspapers, amidst the decline of advertising revenue. In a near 20 minute segment, Oliver examined the case for journalism, through a monologue and a satirical skit of the film Spotlight, and how the direction of newspapers and other aspects of the industry will dictate how journalism is conducted moving forward.

Yet, his quote towards the end before the filmed skit resonated the biggest challenge for journalism yet, and what will happen to the industry down the road if nothing is done about it.

“Sooner or later, we are either going to have to pay for journalism or we are all going to pay for it,” Oliver said.

Oliver’s monologue about paying for journalism reflects a generational divide, a generation accustomed to paying for news through newspapers versus a generation, through the internet and social media, accustomed to getting content for free, and reluctant to pay for it, exacerbated in this social media age.

I am a part of that latter generation. I am a 24 year old who has access to an abundance of information no matter the circumstance — anytime, anywhere, all for the low, low price of $0.00.

It is worth investing in subscriptions to papers like The New York Times, for it will bring significant long-term benefits. (Photo: Haxorjoe/Wikimedia Commons)

It is worth investing in subscriptions to papers like The New York Times, for it will bring significant long-term benefits. (Photo: Haxorjoe/Wikimedia Commons)

Yet, compared to my peers, I am willing to invest in that content. Every day, a newspaper arrives at my house — The Wall Street Journal Monday through Saturday, and the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. But on the same token, I also look at sites that are either paywalled or have their content for free — from The Guardian to The New York Times, the BBC to Reuters and NPR, and periodically — The New Yorker. I also will find content linked either from Twitter or Facebook. I also have a digital subscription to the Journal that ties in with the newspaper subscription.

I read to stay informed of the world around me and to keep up with trends — I read the Journal, the Guardian and others because an informed and educated public is beneficial for our society, and for democracy, something journalism can give. It is something that I am not afraid to pay for.

Those in this industry enter it and seek work in it because we believe in the fundamental principles for which it is associated. We subscribe to its ideas and its values align with our own. We believe in the cause for an informed public and an enhanced civil discourse — that those in power must be held to account, that the work we do together can do the most good.

I believe in the role journalism has in our world, and the role information and education can have in making the lives of others better. I can’t imagine a circumstance where the world is bereft of journalism, which is why its worth supporting and paying for.

It is important for all of us to invest in journalism, for your investment now will result in a significant investment down the road, in the education and knowledge that comes from the pages, in print and online, about your world and your life. That alone has more benefits than seeing a video of a raccoon cat time and time again.

So, subscribe to journalism. Support my friends and colleagues who believe in making the world better, and invest in democracy. Trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Why we must support women in journalism

At a meeting at the United Nations in New York earlier this year on gender equality, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared to the world that he was a proud feminist, and would keep repeating it “until it was met with a shrug.”

Trudeau, who had only been in office for a few months, had already received global attention for his appointment of a gender-neutral cabinet – 50 percent women, 50 percent men. His declaration went viral, circulating through global Facebook and Twitter feeds, and made headlines in publications internationally.

I, like many, saw the clip through YouTube. I then opened up the Word Processor on my computer and began typing. The final article for Kettle Magazine in the UK had this declaration.

“My name is Alex Veeneman. I’m a journalist, and I’m a feminist.”

I had not said publicly that I was a feminist – a few of my close friends and family members knew of my thoughts, but it was not public knowledge until I had submitted that article for publication.

Indeed, there was another reason why that article was written – to show support for women in journalism, whether they were working in the industry, or studying it at university.

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

Recent studies, most notably from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, have shown that there are more women studying journalism at university.

Yet, this was not just the case in the US and Britain. Indeed, the trend was prevalent in other countries, including Australia and Germany. However, despite this, there is still difficulty for women to advance in the industry, as it continues to be heavily male-dominated.

As journalism continues to evolve in the digital age, thanks to the rise of social media platforms and consumption on mobiles, it is trying to reinvent itself to ensure it remains viable. At the core of this is women, for their ideas are detrimental to the future of this industry.

Many of my colleagues at Kettle are women. The majority of our section editors are women, and the number of women who have recently written for the site outnumber men.

Indeed, of the four managing editors currently working at Kettle, I am the only male managing editor, something that I welcome and champion. They got to where they were today because of the work they put in, the time they invested, and the shared goal of quality work.

At SPJ, where in addition to writing these blogs I work on their network of communities, all but one of the five active communities have women as a chair or co-chair. In its 9 active committees, 6 of them have women as a chair or co-chair.

In addition, more women than men hold positions on the Board of Directors. Of the 23 positions on the Board, 14 of them are held by women.

I want to support my friends and colleagues and see them advance in the industry, and have them not be deterred by the systematic treatment and oppression based on their gender.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

We collectively must champion women in journalism, encourage them to raise their voices and share their ideas, and support their efforts by mentoring them and helping them excel towards their career goals. We must support the women who are leading the evolution in digital media, and whose ideas will help shape journalism’s future.

We must also especially champion the women who want to have careers in this industry by supporting them in their work, encouraging them in their studies at universities, mentor them, and to instill confidence in them amid current industry trends.

As Trudeau himself put it in an article for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, feminism is a word we should not be afraid of, but embrace.

“Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for men and women, about everyone having the same choices without facing discrimination based on gender,” Trudeau wrote. “Equality is not a threat, it is an opportunity.”

Women must be equal in journalism, and though the equality issues currently at hand will not be solved overnight, we must champion their role in this industry.

After all, especially as journalism continues to evolve, what remains key are the ideas that come to help make it stronger, no matter who they are or what their background is.

It is something we all must embrace, today and every day, now and in the years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Why it is truly #SPJ4All

My photo for #SPJ4All.

My photo for #SPJ4All.

Last May, I picked up the telephone at my desk and dialed into New Albany, Indiana. Situated on the Indiana-Kentucky border, it was the town that was home to an idea that is at the core of SPJ’s beliefs, principles and ideas.

The idea took root last year when Indiana lawmakers were considering legislation which would have been branded as discriminatory to gay and lesbian couples. Membership Committee chair Robyn Davis Sekula then came up with the idea to do #SPJ4All, a social media campaign that emphasizes SPJ (which itself is based in Indianapolis) is welcome and accepting of all of its members, irrespective of their gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation.

With the help of SPJ colleagues nationally, it developed into an event. After it launched, it got immediate reaction, not just through this blog, but also across social media. When I spoke to her about it last year, Sekula said she wanted to start a conversation.

“We cover news better when we have a wider variety of perspective to bring to the events,” Sekula said.

Today, the SPJ is running the campaign once more, showing that we are truly welcoming and accepting. I recall the conversation for this post, as I believe these ideas make not just SPJ a better organization, but makes the industry stronger, and those who work in the industry better at what they do.

I have been an SPJ member for a little over two years. I joined shortly after my graduation from university, as I tried to figure out the next steps in my career. Since that time, I have been the beneficiary of hearing some wonderful ideas, ideas that are ubiquitous to the future of not just SPJ, but also this industry. I continue to benefit from these ideas not just through contributing to this network of blogs, but through my work as Community Coordinator and other initiatives I take part in for SPJ, as well as through my professional work.

Journalism is changing, and what continues to make this industry stronger and resilient are these ideas that come from a wide variety of people. In order for us to be a stronger industry, all ideas should be heard. You may not necessarily agree with an idea, but its worth hearing, for it may be the one that allows journalism to continue to be at its best.

What I like about SPJ is that all ideas can be heard without fear or vigorous disdain. No one will write you off, and no one will belittle you. Instead, you say your idea in a welcoming environment, and an open, lively conversation ensues, whether its on an issue of governance, an idea for an event, a resolution for the Excellence in Journalism conference, or indeed, journalism itself. It is conducted for all of our benefit.

We are stronger together when we collaborate and exchange ideas together. We are stronger together because we are making journalism better together. We are stronger together when we make your SPJ better together.

That is why we are truly #SPJ4All, and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Social media: Journalism’s hub

Social media and the web have influenced how journalism is disseminated and presented. (Photo: Pixabay)

Social media and the web have influenced how journalism is disseminated and presented. (Photo: Pixabay)

New data from Britain released today has given a new indication as to the role social media has in the world of modern journalism.

The data, released as part of the Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, showed that 73 percent of Americans consume news through the web, including social media, while 46 percent say they consume news exclusively through social (an increase of 6 percent compared to 2015).

The large amount of people consuming news online, and some through social exclusively, is evident in other countries as well. In the UK, 72 percent of people consume news online including on social platforms, while 35 percent say they consume news exclusively through social platforms (a decrease of 1 percent compared to 2015).

Facebook was the top social network for both countries, however there were some key differences in the top 5 social networks. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn were in the top 5 in the US, while Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and LinkedIn were in the top 5 in the UK.

The trends showcased in this report are indicative of where the industry is heading. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are becoming hubs for content, most notably from Facebook’s Instant Articles initiative. Indeed, as journalism is embraced in a multi-platform age, Twitter has taken advantage of this with its recent decision on its 140 character policy, allowing for a focus on multimedia elements, making photos and videos center alongside text.

As journalism continues to be a commodity within the business of social media, expect more of these projects or ideas to originate moving forward. Whether or not most of these plans come to fruition is uncertain, but one thing is clear — social media has become not just an influence in how audiences consume news, but how it is presented, and is challenging news organizations to think carefully and creatively to ensure successful engagement strategies. It is a win for journalism in the sense of outreach, but also presents questions as to where journalism will go next.

Social media is re-innovating journalism with every new project and platform. The ultimate question is if journalism itself can keep up.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

What Jacques Pepin can teach journalists

The work of chef, author and broadcaster Jacques Pepin provides lessons for journalists. (Photo: Edsel Little/Wikimedia Commons)

The work of chef, author and broadcaster Jacques Pepin provides worthwhile lessons for journalists. (Photo: Edsel Little/Wikimedia Commons)

Jacques Pepin and I, through our professions, are different. Pepin is the successful chef, author and broadcaster, known to millions as the host of multiple cooking programs airing on public television. I am a journalist who writes primarily about journalism and digital culture.

Despite our pursuits of different lines of work, there are two things that we have in common — our commitment to quality and our ability to tell stories.

For Pepin, he tells these stories through his recipes, curating the experience of enjoying food with family and friends. For me, it is through the stories and essays I write, not just for SPJ, but for the British publication Kettle Magazine, for whom I have served as an editor and contributor for over 4 years.

Yet, Pepin’s work and philosophy can provide lessons for journalists. In a recent broadcast of the PBS Newshour, Pepin did a segment reflecting on the culture of the recipe, and that at the core of a recipe is the idea that comes from it.

“A recipe is a teaching tool, a guide, a point of departure,” Pepin said. “You have to follow it exactly the first time you make the dish. But after you make it again and again, you will change it, you will massage it to fit your own taste, your own sense of aesthetic.”

The same rule applies, albeit indirectly, to journalism. The ethics and background rules apply and must be abided by the first time you sit down and write a story. You have the information that comes from 6 basic elements — who, what, when, where, why and how. But as the mediums evolve in the digital age, there are more ways for stories to be told, whether through conventional platforms like a newspaper, TV or radio, or through the web and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

What I have come to appreciate about Pepin’s work is the stories that he tells with the experience of food. Every dish, whether he cooks it himself or with the help of his daughter Claudine, granddaughter Shorey or best friend Jean-Claude, tells a story, and though the basic recipe elements either remain the same or differentiate depending upon taste, there is a different story that can be told.

Good journalism and good storytelling has the power to make a difference in the world. It not only informs and engages, but also has the ability to inspire. It is the type of storytelling that I hope to do as I continue my career.

Pepin is curating a unique experience with every dish he makes, which makes his programs on public television (and indeed other public media programs) so worthwhile. Pepin also gives a reminder to all of us about the importance of a good story, and how much benefit it can have.

Happy cooking, and happy storytelling.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Why the world needs journalism students

In the final scene of the legendary sitcom Frasier, as the eponymous character prepares to embark on a new chapter in his life and career, he sits at the microphone at fictitious Seattle radio station KACL and recites a passage from Ulysses, the poem by Lord Tennyson.

I think about it now as I sit down and write this blog post, conscious of the fact that many journalism students, as well as some of my colleagues and the student writers I work with at Kettle Magazine, are completing their degrees, and contemplating their next steps.

In that poem, as Frasier interprets it, it is about taking that chance. As the idea of journalism evolves in the digital age, many of us within the past few years (myself included), have rolled the dice to see if we can be able to work in a profession that matters so much to society, for fear of regret later in life.

We have asked ourselves many questions as we shook and rolled the dice. Am I able to get a job? Will the work I do be meaningful? Can I make a useful contribution to the profession itself? We wonder if all of our work will pay off, or if we went down the conventional path only to find a dead end, and that everything we have done and hoped for will never come to fruition.

Students graduate university, ready for what's next. (Photo: DariaRomanova/Wikimedia Commons)

Students graduate university, ready for what’s next. (Photo: DariaRomanova/Wikimedia Commons)

But you needn’t worry yourself, for you, dear journalism student, are still needed and valued. You will be successful, yet you may face difficulties along the way.

Even though journalism is changing, journalists are still a necessity, no matter the platform, a point emphasized especially by the former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan. The men and women of this industry, irrespective of medium, are making a contribution that has no price tag, even though the business of journalism is trying to figure out the best way to monetize the offerings.

The idea of journalism in the 21st century has evolved, most notably because of the internet and social media. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are becoming hubs for content, while the line between news and comment is being blurred, raising questions on the value of facts and accurate information. However, there is an important relationship our society has with journalism — it can inform and engage, which helps our democracy.

It has been at the foundation of the industry’s development, from the beginnings of newspapers and the printing press, to the invention of radio and television, and now the rise of the internet and social platforms. The people who entered this profession were like you — they were not after fame or fortune, but they wanted to make a difference, improve the quality of life, and to help improve the civil discourse by informing and engaging the public to help them make decisions in their everyday tasks.

Many people have proclaimed that journalism is dead, but that isn’t true. You have a purpose in this ever changing media landscape, to hold politicians and powerful people to account, to put context on the events that matter, to shine a light on this ever-changing world we live in, but most importantly to inform the individuals that matter most — your audience.

You will still have a role in journalism, for you are bound to do great things, exciting things, wonderful things, and in the end, you will have the knowledge that you are doing the most good you can for people around you.

The mediums may change, but the norm remains the same. The world always needs journalists, and you, graduating journalism student, will always be needed, not just now, but in the days, months and years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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