media update’s Talisa Jansen van Rensburg takes a look at what journos need to do differently this year.

Audiences no longer trust the media the way that they used to, due to the rise in fake news, the role that the government plays in what content gets censored and the reliability of news sources.

Journalists, therefore, need to change the way they report on the news. Why? Because readers are becoming more aware of how the mainstream media influences their thoughts on all levels.

2021 is the year that will see journos taking initiative. In a recent article by NiemenLab Samantha Ragland talks about what a successful journalist will look like this year.

So, without further ado, here’s what journalists need to do in 2021:

1. Journalists need to ‘speak truth to power’

The current state of America’s politics and how the mass media covers the current affairs and the pandemic is proof of just how much journalists can change the lives of millions of people.

The media reporters that want to succeed this year will need to demand action from people in power. They need to speak out against injustice and wrongdoing in the system — regardless if it is putting a big brand, an individual or the government in the spotlight.

Here are four ways how you can speak truth to power, according to American author Josh Bernoff:
  • Carefully gather information over a long period of time — This is to ensure that you have all of the facts when writing a piece or discussing an issue with someone.
  • Be succinct — This way, you can make your point or ask your question without allowing your choice of words to be changed or interpreted in the wrong way.
  • Don’t shade the truth — Rather, speak up in a respectful manner by saying something like, ‘have you considered the following perspectives?’
  • Be consistent — Being the same throughout all interviews and in the way that you report on stories will grow the trust that your readers have in your content. By keeping it consistent, simple, factual and truthful, readers will, over time, look to you over others for information because of the reliability of your work.

2. Journalists need to live to tell stories

Audiences are bombarded with sales pitches and advertisements; the last thing they want to do when catching up on news or trending topics is feel that a journo is trying to sell a side, a point or even a product.

Successful journalists in 2021 will need to be passionate storytellers (who live to tell their stories) and who not only write because it’s their job, but because they have important news that the world needs to hear.

Stories are what makes the world go around; it makes people happy, sad, worried or content. Thus, journos will need to focus on creating powerful stories to evoke these emotions within their readers.

3. Journalists need to become visionaries

Being a journalist means that you report on current affairs taking place in the world, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t be a visionary at the same time.

This means that you need to report on new ideas that give the public insight on how to change current issues and on how to create a better future for everyone. An example of this is when news outlets reported on the issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement.

As a member of the press, you shouldn’t be afraid to discuss vital issues such as Black Lives Matter. In order to be a true visionary, you need to report on what is right, not what you think readers want to consume.

*Image sourced from The Collegian

Remember, as a professional working in the media, you have the power to shape and change the mind of the masses for the better.

And, as a journalist, you get to see many different sides to a story, allowing you to highlight different perspectives that will build on society and encourage change where it is required.

4. Journalists need to demand real action

As a journalist, you ask certain questions to get specific answers; however, this is the year where you need to demand real action. A great example of a journalist doing this is Kori Sidaway, a news reporter for CHEK News in Victoria, British Columbia. Sidaway spoke up about a viewer who attempted to body shame her for the clothes she was wearing on-air.

*Image sourced from Fox News

On the left side of the image, you can see Sidaway with the blouse she actually wore live on television; on the right side, there is an image (that is not of Sidaway) that a viewer sent saying: “too much cleavage can break your news story.”

Sidaway immediately took to Twitter to state that the women of today don't stand for harassment, and in doing so, she took her own power back and demanded action. Countless other women related to her story responded with their own experiences, leaving Sidaway feeling less alone and more empowered by all the support she received.

“The journalists who will own 2021 are the ones who demand real action — not just real answers — from their managers, newsrooms, and even from themselves,” says Ragland. This means that journos need to start demanding action and not just be happy with empty words from those in positions of power.

5. Journalists need diverse voices in their content

It is no secret that the media industry is not a place of diversity; now is the time to change all of that. According to Ragland, “2021 is the year for journalists from all sides of the newsroom to step into the cultural challenge that is a white-washed, male-dominated media industry and walk into a cultural change.”

This means that journos who will make their mark on the map are the ones who will challenge the industry by being more inclusive of other individuals, cultures, religions and genders.

It is no longer about being a ‘voice for the voiceless’ but rather being a channel of communication for people who aren’t being heard by the mainstream media. Journalists can do this by allowing these individuals to speak up and share their own stories from their communities.

Do you think that this will be the year for journalists to disrupt and change the media industry for the better? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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Now that we have an idea of what will make a successful journalist in 2021, be sure to read more on The problem with the media industry in 2020 and find more ways to improve the industry.
*Image courtesy of Unsplash