Karl Schneider

Students on the path towards a career in journalism are watching newspapers such as the Plain Dealer carefully. With the introduction of free online news publications, the outlook for decent paying jobs in the news field is thinning.

The world will always need journalists to gather and report information. However, it now seems that journalists entering the field must be able to sell themselves in a variety of fields, including online content management, according to Thom Fladung, managing editor of the Plain Dealer.

“It all fall down to writing talent,” Fladung said during an SPJ meeting Feb. 18 in Cleveland’s Market Garden Brewery. The Plain Dealer as well as publications across the nation are trying to derive a model to maximize profitability as well as retain and expand their readership through online venues.

There are already online payment models in place for different publications and it will take some trial and error to find what works best for each specific paper. Very few publications in the U.S. are providing the data on how their online strategies are working.

These payment strategies will help editors and managers figure out how to pay their writers, but the jobs still exist for up-and-coming journalists. The basic tenets of good reporting still play a major role when hiring managers are interviewing and recruiting.

“Having an insatiable curiosity and a passion for the work is what I look for when I am hiring,” said Fladung.

Aside from the money making woes that news publications face by utilizing the Internet, the quality of the articles remains at the forefront of digital journalism. Most news publications are transitioning to an online format to augment their print editions. This transition is altering the way the news industry is being viewed.

“There is no luxury to build a story anymore. Reporters must take the “kill shot”,” Fladung said. The immediacy of online journalism means reporters must adjust to the changes. There is less time for rewrites, less time to build up to a story and more demand for instant gratification. Reporters also need to focus on diverse kinds of stories, given the mixed demographic of their readers.

The advent of social media networks has given readers the opportunity to weigh in on articles published online. Readers are now in direct contact with the story

“Newspapers must engage with the readers. They [readers] place a very important role now,” Fladung said. Readers are able to give news publications feedback and even tips, which helps bridge the gap between them and the writers.