Opportunities in New Media and Mass Communications

Article excerpt

A few weeks ago, a radio-talk show host contacted me with a request to book a couple of student writers on his show, which often addresses issues related to colleges and universities. He hoped to interview students who had written controversial articles for my website, BlackCollege wire.org. We complied eagerly. There was just one catch: The program isn't broadcast on terrestrial radio" as we know it, or even on satellite radio. It's broadcast online at PSIradio.com or downloaded via podcast.



This is just one example of how "new media" technologies such as the Internet and portable digital or wireless devices, have changed the landscape of mass media and the field of mass communications as a whole.

A Google search turns up eight distinct definitions for "new media," ranging from "artworks that use multimedia ... and computer technology," to "emerging digital/electronic communications forms." In any case, today's students preparing for any career in media should assume they will be working in a multimedia environment--and a rapidly changing one at that.

Rapid Change, Diverse Skillsets

Remember when you purchased your first laptop with all latest bells and whistles only to find, a year or so later, that it was obsolete? Similarly, if you entered journalism or media programs four years ago, you may have thought you wanted to be a TV reporter or producer, or perhaps a newspaper or magazine editor or columnist, or a radio announcer. Maybe you were interested in graphic design, illustration, photography or video engineering for a mass medium. Four years later, those professions have metamorphosed into new forms, and you need to be educated and trained as a multimedia communicator.

"What happens," asks the website for the New Media Program at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, "when distinctions between print and broadcast media fade away and a single reporter must combine video, audio, text and images to tell the story?"

TV reporters and newspaper columnists are now more likely to have blogs on their employers' websites, complete with video and audio clips. Print communicators also blog and now often carry digital cameras that shoot still and video images. Their stories are posted online within hours (or sometimes minutes) of being produced along with photos and video clips. Content may be produced, edited, distributed and "consumed" simultaneously in multiple formats as varied as audio podcasts, email or newsreader feeds, interactive forums, and live or on-demand streams delivered to computers, PDAs or even cellphones, as well as in newsprint and broadcast.

This doesn't mean that the bedrock skills imparted by traditional journalism and communications training are out of date. A strong command of language both spoken and written, the ability to research, digest and communicate information clearly and economically on a fast turn-around, and a familiarity with principles of publishing ethics and copyright may all be more relevant and in-demand than ever. However, finding gainful employment in media increasingly demands that candidates be able to marry traditional skills with some cross-disciplinary training and multimedia work experience.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall employment outlook for media-related occupations is a good news-bad news story. Consolidation and convergence among the large and more traditional organizations in the media and publishing industry has slowed job growth for such occupations as news analysts, reporters, and correspondents, and caused a decline for some, such as non-online broadcast announcers.

Nonetheless, for most media and mass communications majors armed with good training and updated skills needed for the shifting media landscape and its new digital tools, the underlying picture is less bleak. …