The industry shakes its imposter syndrome

It’s time for the news industry to shake its imposter syndrome, stop worrying about outside influences, and be what it is truly destined to be for communities.

For the past two decades, the news media has been grappling with a decline in ratings and subscriptions while trying its best to entertain viewers and capture clicks with tantalizing headlines.

While that pursuit for eyeballs was growing, local newspapers found themselves fighting to keep their iron throne from TV news sites, blogs, podcasts, and a whole host of nonprofits and community-focused startups. Some journalists ventured out to build their own brands on Substack and Medium. There was more than one game in town.

Social media — which was once seen as a new digital distribution model for some newsrooms — has news leadership at its mercy as Facebook threatens to remove news from its platform and Twitter sees journalists bail.

The market is saturated with information, and it must contend with a mountain of alternative facts and misinformation. These are challenging waters to navigate, and the struggling economy has created new waves of uncertainty.

A group of aspiring journalists recently asked me whether journalism is dead. Absolutely not, I said. The industry was reshaping when I got out of school, and today it looks nothing like it did then. I’m dating myself here, but few people knew what to do with the internet, and not nearly enough news leaders thought to get behind paywalls in a timely manner. Newspapermen were arrogant and reluctant. Photogs laughed at the first photojournalist carrying a digital camera, which was once considered inferior to film. Now we can’t even imagine a world without cell phones.

News — and how we receive it — has always adjusted to the times.

Look no further than the Associated Press, which was founded in 1846 and peddled news by boat, horseback and telegraph long before the 1940s, when it transmitted news across radio waves. Historically speaking, the AP has always had to adapt, literally going from telegraph to TikTok in its complete history.

This is truly the time to meet your audience wherever they are; the platform doesn’t matter nearly as much as the quality of the content.

You either adapt or die.

But I think some newsrooms will realize they’re in control. They’ll actually break up with Facebook and Twitter before Mark and Elon determine their fate. They will rebuild what was lost chasing clicks in newsrooms and get back out into the communities they neglected. And they’ll start investing in their own newsrooms to master the art of storytelling. Back to the type of accountability reporting that keeps governments in line.

News organizations have history on their side, adjusting to embrace new technology and accounting for changes in human habit. Nothing stays the same. And it is time for news organizations to look within themselves instead of desperately reaching for the trend of the moment because they are uncertain of their own accomplishments and identities.

The smart news organizations will make the necessary changes. The others are probably going to miss the mark because they’re still listening to their Walkmans.

Delano Massey is the managing editor of Axios Local.

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