It’s one thing to conjure up a bright new world of journalism with mobile apps, daring interactive storytelling formats, innovative pay models, and endless lists of fun and games.
It’s an entirely different thing to be a journalist, maintain a career, and earn a living wage in
an industry hit by successive quakes and aftershocks. Today’s graduates leave journalism school only to hit shifting ground, where cracked structures crumble and new ventures tremble as if they were nothing but houses of cards.
In this issue, Montana Journalism Review looks beyond slogans, trends, and predic- tions to examine how the shift in media has affected journalism in the state and across the West. Which news organizations are still standing? How are the rules changing? Where are the innovators? Who is ahead of the curve?
Take Montana television, the subject of a three-part TV Guide at the center of our magazine: Though financially in better shape than print, stations struggle to innovate in ways that not only serve their bottom lines, but their public. Torn between catering to a faithful but aging viewership and a younger mobile audience, TV channels are revamp- ing their online offerings, often in heated competition with the print industry. In the transit area that is the web, journalists migrate from print to broadcast, and vice versa. Editors find little time to unmask interest groups used as sources, while weathercasters wrestle with climate science.
While the ground shifts, so do the rules, as government agencies react to blurring lines between news, commercial, and social media. Restrictions are planned or already in place for anything from drone journalism to video activism. Fourteen years before Ferguson, the Missoula riots taught us an important lesson: Press freedom must be fought for anew every time media technology shifts.
Some journalists leave the profession to find clarity of purpose and better pay in public
relations. Others use their disenchantment with the system to drive innovation. In Billings,
veteran journalist Ed Kemmick quit the Gazette and launched a successful blog; in Western Montana, a couple dissatisfied with the way a corporate-owned news- paper was covering local news is running its own community weekly. Even MJR incu- bates so-called entrepreneurs: Austin Green, 2014 managing editor, set out for Spain to start his own sports website.
Watching others leap from floe to floe encouraged us to take risks ourselves: We in- vested in a tablet edition that will be available through Apple’s Newsstand, and included a button on our website asking readers to throw some financial weight behind their support of individual stories. Putting together print, web, and tablet editions of MJR 2015 forced us to face contra- dictions typical for today’s journalism; between independent reporting and promotion, media criticism and fundraising, and cutting-edge design and ad requirements. As we struggled to find stable ground, we learned what’s true for the industry awaiting us: