Cision’s Global State of the Media Report is now in its 14th year, and for 2023, we wanted to make a few changes to our survey to learn more about what’s on the mind of today’s journalists. Alongside queries designed to collect quantitative data, we posed qualitative questions to shed light on trends reporters are seeing.
In one such request: We asked journalists to finish the following statement: “The next generation of journalists need to be…” In addition to providing a window into growing concerns about the future of the industry, their answers shed light on opportunities for comms professionals to own their roles with media partners and make themselves invaluable resources to today’s resource-stretched and time poor journalists.
Truthful, Accurate and Unbiased
One of the most common themes to emerge across the global survey is the need for journalists to adhere to the truth, and bring accuracy and unbiased thinking to their work.
Though this will always be a staple of journalism, it’s become more vital than ever in the wake of fake news and misinformation being disseminated rapidly across social media. Many of those surveyed also emphasized the importance of training, particularly as it related to the classic rules of journalism and objective reporting. Below is a snapshot of some of the responses we received to our open-ended question on the next generation of journalists:
“[They need to be] proficient and accurate in their storytelling by gathering true information and facts.”
“…less biased. We routinely see/hear journalists who don't report the facts without reporting them from a very specific angle. Others won't cover a story at all if the subject matter doesn't support their beliefs.”
“…focused on truth, accuracy, seeking fairness and balance and on promoting understanding of issues.”
“…trained in the basics of journalism and reporting practices, and well versed in journalistic ethics.”
“…properly trained in the basics of gathering information, checking its accuracy and presenting it in an easy to read and informative way. Like journalists used to be.”
Why It Matters for PR: It’s clear we’re at a critical moment when it comes to truth and accuracy in the media. This matters for communications professionals as well as journalists. PR and comms pros who send out pitches and press releases to journalists are ultimately handing over their story (and editorial control) to the reporter and publication. They must ensure any pitch or press release has been fact-checked and referenced, with clear data to back up your story and, if necessary, an expert available for comment.
Artificial Intelligence Leads the Tech Discussion
Many of our respondents used the words “technology,” “digital” or “data” in relation to being prepared for an increasingly tech- and data-reliant industry. “Social media” was also mentioned several times in a similar context.
However, artificial intelligence (AI) and the emergence of ChatGPT was clearly on the mind of journalists who took the State of the Media survey in early 2023. Sentiment was mixed between being cautious of the technology and making sure it isn’t ignored. A selection of responses that exemplify these feelings:
“[The next generation of journalists needs to be] savvy technology users. Innovations like ChatGPT won't stop, but the journalists who hide from them are at a disadvantage.”
“…focused on finding original data and original perspectives. As AI does more of the actual writing, the journalists who succeed will be the ones who can do the human kinds of things like telling personal stories and finding original conclusions in data sets and data trends well.”
“… able to use Generative AI to enhance their work and remain relevant.”
“… aware of the opportunities and pitfalls of AI”
“... intelligent and specific. The phase of reproducing information already online is over (with the likes of ChatGPT). Investigatory journalism will be required which will put further pressure on PRs.”
Why It Matters for PR: As the last comment suggests, a post-ChatGPT world could see journalism move away from recycling existing content and into more original reporting.
This is where PR pros will need to step in to help reporters uncover information that isn’t readily available, helping to shape new stories with fresh angles. Authenticity will be crucial here, as audiences look for trustworthy content they know hasn't been created by AI. On a more practical level, comms teams must level up their AI knowledge fast, and use it to support the skills that make humans unique. AI will be able to execute mundane, entry-level tasks at speed, but it won’t ever replace true creative thought or interrogate and exceed a brief.
Agility and Adaptability
As advertising revenues fall and job roles are reduced, it’s becoming harder and harder to establish a career in journalism, as demonstrated by one respondent from the UK: “I am an early career journalist and just completed my [Masters degree]. Me and my classmates have all struggled to find permanent contracted work – the majority of us are balancing multiple freelance gigs or precarious temporary or freelance contracts.”
With that in mind, a journalist that increases their skillset and is alert to change within their industry will become increasingly valuable to potential employers. Many of our State of the Media respondents noted that the next generation of journalists should be...
“... entrepreneurial, technologically savvy, and creative.”
“... tech savvy with a side hustle..."
... agile and multi-channel. Willing to pivot on a moment's notice to new content distribution methods.”
"... storytellers at heart, curious, passionate about digital media, willing to document and find the truth, good investigator skills, ethics and professionalism, creative and open to learning every day.”
“... aggressive and innovative, with consideration for the business needs of the publisher that would not have been necessary in the old days of journalism.”
Why It Matters for PR: At this pivotal time, comms professionals need to be laser-focused on the ‘Relationship’ aspect of PR. Getting to know the journalists you work with on an individual level will help you understand the challenges they face professionally and how you can best help them get the stories they need. Are they full-time or freelance? Do they have their own podcast or Substack? Knowing the platforms they operate on – and the audiences they serve – will give you a better chance of getting the right story to the right place at the right time. Above all, they’ll value speed and accuracy.
Next Steps for PR and Comms Teams
These concerns are just scratching the surface of this year’s Global State of the Media Report. Journalists and PR professionals both operate in an urgent, near-real time landscape where news unfolds quickly. They rely on each other to do their jobs effectively, and it’s clear that there’s common ground in the challenges both face as they look to the future.
Understanding what those challenges are is the first step to understanding how to overcome them and create new opportunities. The insights from the State of the Media Report aim to shed light on those opportunities for both PR professionals and the journalists with whom they aim to partner.
For more findings and takeaways that will enhance your relationships with journalists, check out the full 2023 Global State of the Media Report.