In a New York minute – Examining the sudden evolution of journalism and its impact on the news publications that are forced to adapt
March 16, 2012
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NEW YORK – For centuries the only mode of news journalism came in the form of tangible handouts such as newsletters and newspapers. However, today the world of journalism is drastically different, and is changing at an expeditious rate.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Foursquare, Mashable. The list of social media tools goes on and on. In a society dominated by smartphones and tablets, print journalism is quickly fading; and technology changes so rapidly these days that news publications are struggling to keep up.
One renowned publication that has embraced the social media revolution is weekly sports magazine Sports Illustrated. SI’s current approach to modernizing its magazine is very much Internet oriented and takes advantage of the contemporary popularity surrounding gadgets such as the iPad. Creative director Christopher Hercik, the man in charge of heading the multimedia story telling movement at SI, stressed the need to continuously adjust the magazine to the reader’s liking.
“You need to evolve to stay relevant in this business,” he said. “The more current you are the more [followers] you get.”
However, sudden readership reliance on web journalism also presents major challenges to the journalists themselves. This inclination towards online news requires frequent uploads of breaking sports news onto SI’s website that in turn require an increase in workload for the web editors of the magazine. In fact, according to Hercik, in 2009 (before SI dedicated all of the resources it does now to its website) each designer managed an average of 325 pages a year. Now, however, after the recent social networking boom, each designer produces approximately 2,437 pages annually.
“It’s a lot of work,” director of photography Steve Fine said. “But the beauty of sports is that tomorrow there is always another big game. It’s just part of the job. You have to be willing to put in [the effort].”
Although Sports Illustrated is a widely celebrated magazine that has a massive following (it’s read by more than 23 million adults each week), it still recognizes the importance of the imminent transition from print to digital.
“Right about the time that [the future of print journalism] was getting extremely dire, we had this breakthrough in technology and the digital stuff got more and more interesting really fast,” Editor of Time Inc. Sports Group and Head of Operations at SI, Terry McDonell said. “So we addressed that as if that was [our top priority] and we became the first magazine to develop compatibility with the iPad.”
McDonell also notes the financial benefits of embracing digital.
“The more we transform ourselves into a digital company our costs will recede because we don’t have to make the print version of it anymore,” he said. “We just have to make it work on all of these other platforms and people more and more will want that.”
That being said, McDonell also elucidated that it has been and always will be the content of his magazine that is the most essential facet of the publication, regardless of whether it’s in print or online.
“The challenge of that is ultimately ‘how do we still keep what is differentiating about Sports Illustrated whole and righteous in these other platforms?'” he said. “That’s what we think about all the time here, that’s our biggest challenge for the future.”
While the field of journalism will continue to change one thing won’t: its purpose. Lynn Zinser, sports reporter for The New York Times, put it best.
“Good journalism is still good journalism,” she said. “While we may use new tools, the very basis of journalism will never ever change; we still need to bring the stories that need to be told to life.”