As the journalism profession faces threats from artificial intelligence, misinformation and the collapse of business models that support journalism, the next generation of journalists nonetheless feels optimistic and wants to bring truth, justice and integrity to their work, a new survey suggests.
Greentarget, the strategic communications firm where I work as director of media relations, recently surveyed 100 journalism students and new professionals in the field. The survey sought to learn the journalists’ views on the future of their profession at a time when journalism and its workforce are being transformed.
The new research follows Greentarget’s reports in 2020 and 2021, which examined how journalists can counter fake news. This year, we found that while next-generation journalists are generally clear-eyed about the professional challenges they face, they are also passionate about their work and see it as a way to serve the public and hold power to account.
PR professionals can learn from this new generation of journalists. For communicators, here are some takeaways from our report “Next-Gen Journalists: Navigating Misinformation, AI & The Future of Journalism.”
A continued emphasis on credible and diverse sources
Our survey found that when generating story ideas, finding sources or verifying information, young journalists often turn to reporting in the field (94%), primary-source networks (92%) and experts and think tanks (92%), much more than they rely on social media platforms.
These findings should boost the confidence of any PR executive who represents subject-matter experts or think tanks, as young reporters adhere to journalistic standards by valuing expertise and credible, authoritative sources. The findings also suggest that PR professionals continue to play an important role as mediators between experts and reporters, even amid significant technological changes and new business models.
Meanwhile, nearly six in 10 journalism students and new journalists surveyed by Greentarget say they are concerned about racial, gender and economic representation in journalism, while 85% are taught to seek out diverse sources.
Our survey suggest that young journalists and journalism students consider diversity, equity and inclusion a priority in their field. PR professionals should encourage clients to offer diverse voices — or risk journalists looking elsewhere for sources.
According to our report, if your client has an announcement or initiative that incorporates corporate social responsibility (CSR); environmental, social or governance (ESG); or diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the next generation of journalists will want to know about it.
A desire to help people make informed decisions
While some young journalists surveyed say they’re entering the field for the excitement (37%) or for fame (9%), most are driven by idealistic values such as helping people make informed decisions (62%), exposing injustice (58%), and fighting mis- and disinformation (45%). PR professionals should note these priorities.
An emphasis on business misconduct
We’ve already seen how student-led newsrooms can make an impact. In July, the Stanford Daily broke a story that forced the university’s president Marc Tessier-Levigne to resign over allegations that he had manipulated research data. Later that same month, The Daily Northwestern broke a national story about hazing allegations within the university’s football program. As a sports reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “It took the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, to bring to light what the school chose not to.”
With early career experiences such as these — and a strong belief in journalistic ideals — the next generation of reporters will carry on journalistic traditions by investigating allegations of misconduct by those in power. Public relations professionals should make sure their teams and clients are prepared to face tough questions during a crisis.
The news media will continue to grapple with social, economic and technological changes. But if our research is any indication, the future of journalism is in good hands.
Lisa Seidenberg is director of media relations at Greentarget, a Chicago-based PR firm that brings a unique mix of expertise in B2B public relations from their work with Fortune 500 companies, professional-services firms, law firms, technology companies, manufacturing businesses, commercial real estate companies, health care organizations and financial-services organizations.[Photo illustration: rawpixel.com]