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Journalism Students at RIT Looking at Evolving and Exciting Future

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Rochester: Journalism Students at RIT Looking at Evolving and Exciting Future
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It's an ever-changing business, full of challenge and opportunity. Journalism students at RIT this week got some insight into what they'll be up against once they hit the job market.

"As journalists, we cannot be objective about our right to exist. When it comes to these issues. we need to be there at the table."

The message was delivered this week to a roomful of students with a stake in the future of journalism. The state of the business depends on whose lens you're looking through.

"The idea is not to predict the future but to start asking the right questions, because obviously the business is changing a lot,” said Andrea Hickerson, communications professor at RIT.

The media landscape is changing. Many traditional forms are struggling.

"But that means there are going to be other opportunities out there, because people need information,” said David Cay Johnston.

Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, says young journalists need to be sharp.

"The important element for young people who want to go into journalism is to understand that they have to actually know something useful. The era in which you could be superficial and simply tell a story – that is, be a failed novelist who writes stories and accurately quotes people – is over."

Accuracy itself became an issue in some well covered stories. The Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax. Reporting the wrong name, for hours, of the Sandy Hook gunman, to name some.

"When I worked at the Los Angeles Times, it wasn't unusual for a reporter to spend a year on a story,” Johnston said.

Johnston says business pressures have wiped those days away.

"Now all sorts of shops are hiring people, expecting them to do ten stories a day. Guess what? Quality and content and accuracy fall off."

There are other challenges. Reporters Without Borders proclaimed 2012 a dangerous year for journalists worldwide.

Here at home, many of the challenges are of the First Amendment variety.

"Basically, all they want to do is get you to stop doing what you're doing. It also has what we call in a legal sense, a chilling effect on the First Amendment,” said Mickey Osterreicher.

Osterreicher is a former photojournalist and current lawyer for the National Press Photographers Association. He says it's almost a "perfect storm" scenario. More people have cameras. The definition of who's a journalist and who's not has become blurred. Traditional media outlets are doing more with less.

"The rights of journalists nowadays seem to be challenged. I deal with issues of photographers being interfered with and arrested around the country almost on a daily basis,” Osterreicher said.

“This is part of the dark side of how technology is changing journalism. But there are many bright spots as well."

Those bright spots are part of the RIT focus, where ever-changing technology will mesh with traditional journalism. It’s a changing world, and, experts say, one with an exciting future.

"I think there's really never been a better time to go into journalism if you're willing to experiment and take those risks,” Hickerson said.

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