Digital journalism continues to evolve

Our world, it seems, continues to speed up its pace as each of us expands our reach in it.

Information can be shared in the blink of an eye, and can go from one point of the planet to another in milliseconds through our technology.

The events of the last week show just how quickly something can be shared. The days of waiting for a television or radio broadcast or to pick up the printed newspaper are over, with websites and social media now the norm when it comes to dispensing and sharing news.

It’s something many journalists are still trying to adjust to, whether we’re long-time veterans, seasoned reporters or those just starting to dip our toes in the ink.

When I first went to college, the focus for a reporter was still to just collect the information and put it into story form. The idea of websites and digital photography was still in its infancy, especially around here.

When I started working, we had a few staff photographers between the Daily Times and Herald-Star, but, for the most part, I had to quickly learn how to alternate between taking notes and taking a picture while not missing anything important.

Websites developed, although many of us are still trying to figure out the best format for those, technology became better and we began to look at what other tools we could use to “enhance” our reporting.

Today, journalists, no matter the medium, often are called upon to provide a written story or script, photography, video and possibly other components.

Websites are viewed as an opportunity to keep readers and viewers informed around the clock, even if we’re not technically on it.

Social media sites make us even more accessible, and provides us with the ability to deliver the news wherever we may be.

We can share photos and video, along with tidbits about local events and governmental meetings, and it all can be done literally from the palm of our hands.

Journalists traditionally have to gather information and figure out what is important and what people will want to know. Modern technology helps to spread the information, but can make the “gatekeeper” role more difficult at times.

The urge to take a picture and send out a couple of short sentences can be a difficult one to fight, but we also must make sure of the facts behind what we send, how it is sent and, at times, even when it is sent.

Many journalists set up social media sites where they can interact with readers and viewers, get tips on news or even see some of what is being discussed in the community.

But, we’re also still learning the proper and responsible ways to use these media as a tool in the business.

On Friday, while electronic and social media were helping to spread the word of the search for the second alleged Boston bomber, a conference was being held in which newspaper reporters from across West Virginia were discussing some of these aspects, including how best to use social media and digital components.

I followed some of it through Twitter and have to admit, the more this is discussed, the more I?realize I have to learn.

Last year, I set up a Twitter profile and Facebook page strictly for work purposes. They are additional ways for people to reach me, just as my work email and our phone system have been for years, but I also use them to try and show some of what is involved in my work life.

I’m trying to figure a lot of this out as I go, adjusting what I include, how much to show, when to share the information, etc.

In a world that, more and more, is demanding instant information and gratification, the slightest delay isn’t good enough, and with fewer people available, we find all of us trying to figure new and better ways to take on the additional tasks to provide both traditional and technologically up-to-date reporting.

There is a balance which must be kept, or else we could find ourselves with the proverbial egg on our face as we try to provide accurate information to the public.

This is a constantly evolving world, and we have to continuously learn and develop new skills in order to even begin to keep up with it.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)