Confronting the challenge

California Watch, a nonprofit venture by the Center for Investigative Reporting, crafts investigative stories for print, web and broadcast partners across the state.

In an industry under siege from economic pressures and dwindling community commitment, journalists face a four-fold challenge:
 
1. Find a new foundation for quality reporting and investigation in an industry where experienced news-gathering teams are being replaced by smaller, untested crews.

2. Strengthen and diversify storytelling approaches, with compelling combinations of narrative, video, databases, graphics, audio and images.
 
3. Successfully package and deliver information on multiple, customized platforms, from print to smartphone, from tablet to website, to whatever new development waits in the wings.
 
4. Skillfully engage audiences as partners in news discovery, review and analysis.  
 
A second chance
Traditional media companies stumbled at the dawn of the Internet Age, with calcified thinking and old business models slowing their adoption of web strategies while smarter, nimbler competitors embraced the opportunities afforded by the new media
Today, the media agencies that survived compete aggressively on the Internet, fighting for market share at a time when brand distinctions are rarely factors when consumers seek out news. Fortunately, the speed with which news-sharing platforms are being developed is providing media companies with a second chance. The rise of smartphones, tablets and the customized delivery of information and services through applications is helping to restore brand identity. 
 
News agencies are now among the first entities to devise specialized content and customized delivery for these new audiences. In short, to the bold and aggressive will go the market share. This is the first step toward finding that firmer footing. New corporate models, including non-profit investigative agencies, are also rising -- a promising step toward the goal of ensuring the survival of the Fourth Estate.
 
What emerges will not resemble traditional media -- that ship has long since sailed. But the new paradigm that develops has the potential to ensure the watchdog role of journalism survives this cultural evolution -- so long as it continues to be nimble and creative in meeting its audience's needs.
 
Journalism schools must play a key role in working with professional media to develop this new paradigm. The strengths of academia should be focused on researching the changing needs of media audiences, developing tools to meet those needs and training students in the skills necessary to deliver the content desired in effective storytelling formats.
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