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The Deflated Journalist

Column by Jason Kintzler, illustration by Tiffany Garner

Right now in a newsroom somewhere, panic has set in.

Mounting financial pressure from a newspaper publisher has trickled down into every column inch of what used to be such a simple and beautiful process.

From the whisper of a lead to an exhaustive round of sourcing, journalists would weave together a narrative and deliver it through a medium owned by their employer.

It was a romantic time for the industry- until media became social. Today, journalists in newsrooms scan the same firehose of tweets and alerts as their readers do. Moreover, few of them are still dictating what is newsworthy.

It’s a bad time to be a journalist. It’s a great time to be the new journalist.

At 21 years old, I became a news anchor for three CBS affiliates across Montana, including Bozeman, Butte, and Helena. As both a reporter and producer, I was also tasked with putting together a nightly newscast. I would scour the wires, check with the local law enforcement for updates, and carve out a feature story or two in hopes of entertaining someone.

Looking back, it seems ridiculous that media outlets could serve as gatekeepers of information. In some ways, we were a bottleneck of information, and because of it, we could monetize it.

Today, news breaks at the source and is distributed through social media channels. At first, journalists were quick to jump on the “that’s not credible” bandwagon. But consumers were far more intelligent than they were given credit for in previous models.

They know a tweet isn’t necessarily fact, but they don’t care. They appreciate the real-time delivery and start digging into the background story themselves.

The new journalists don’t aim to change the world by exposing corruption. Instead, they’re information mavens who want to empower people and generate meaningful conversations. They break stories down into facts, stats, and quotes, and use smartphones to share them instantly.

The new journalists understand that no one owns the message—they simply brand it. To be the new journalist, look around you. Listen to what people are saying, sharing, and tweeting—that’s news. Understand that a six-second Vine video is no less relevant than this 400-word article.

As journalists, we were never smarter than anyone else; we were just good at packaging information. That’s still the case. It’s just not as romantic as it once was.

Jason Kintzler is the founder and CEO of PitchEngine, a media and marketing technology company.