"Kill the author," says WBEZ Chicago Digital Content Editor Tim Akimoff.
As an avid fan of Hunter S. Thompson, and self-proclaimed gonzo journalist, I never knew how to put in into words the proper way to admire, but not copy another writer's style. Years ago I transitioned from a strict news writer to the the more detail oriented, scene setting writer that I've become today. The biggest hurdles I had to climb in this process were the stern looks and comments I received from the professors in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon. To them, keeping to a strict news only format was the proper way to relay a story. I did my best to stick to it as their opinions and judgements, as I needed their approval and good grades to be able to complete their classes. As begrudging as that experience was, the reality, at least in my eyes, is that writing in a strict news style was boring. Every time I stepped up to a computer to compose a story I felt that being able to tell the story the way I would talk to a person face-to-face was the most appropriate route. While I understand news writing's value, in the ever-evolving world of journalism, the traditions of its founders have grown stale, and the consumers are losing interest more and more each day. So what's the solution?
In 2005 Akimoff graduated from the UOSOJC, much in the same way as I'm about to do this next week. He and I both dealt with the drudgery of the old style of journalism and tackled the all mighty challenge that was Info Hell. But at the end of the day, what did we really learn? That's not to say we didn't. What I'm getting at is aside from perfecting our style and proper use of the AP guidelines, what else was there? I bring this up because I started the program two years after Akimoff left it. I had a few of the same professors, and sure enough I went through the same routines as he. Today the program is completely different. No longer do the students focus heavily upon the writing and printing aspects of journalism. Now they're all learning more about the tech side of things, and how to get your product out to a larger audience since the days of the newspaper being the most viable source are fading into the days of the dinosaurs.
Much like the trade itself, Akimoff adapted. He started out focusing primarily within the print format at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon and The Oregonian in Portland; however, he didn't limit himself to just that. He learned the new formats on the fly and branched out his services in Alaska, Montana, Ukraine and a slew of other countries. In a short time Akimoff has mastered and taken charge of the new generation of journalism, relying heavily upon digital and social media-based content.
Contrary to what we were both taught in our early years if the program, clearly a change has come. Now, it's all a matter of whether or not the program, as well as those learning it are capable of understanding the new practices in which to reach their audience. For me, it's certainly taken time; however, having worked on a much larger platform in New York City, I am at the forefront of this change. Now, it's just a matter of staying relevant and gaining a large group of followers who understand and can relate to what we produce. That is what will keep journalism thriving.