Fear and loathing in Cyberspace

In ninth grade, I decided I wanted to become a journalist. Inspired by a love of writing and an obsession with the film All the President's Men, I resolved that a career in journalism was the only thing for me. Seduced by the combination of exposing truth and constantly writing, I began to report for Staples' newspaper, Inklings.

I delved into my school's long-standing tradition of print journalism with enthusiasm. As a sophomore, I took an "Introduction to Journalism" elective, which only furthered my dreams of journalistic excellence. I was enveloped in the bubble that Inklings provided, and blissfully unaware of the many changes that the world of professional journalism was undergoing. As I was writing for a scholastic, not-for-profit organization, we have been able to avoid the issues that the professional world has encountered, for the most part.

But then, in 2007, The New York Times chopped one and a half inches off its margins. The Metro section became a part of the International/National section. In 2008, The Christian Science Monitor stopped printing its daily paper and became an online-only news source. As much as I wanted to, I could no longer ignore the dark cloud that seemed to be looming above the newspaper industry.

As I begin applying to colleges and focusing my attention toward the future, the time has come to ask myself truly a frightening question: Will the traditional media industry still exist when I am finally ready to join in its professional ranks?

It's a scary time to be an aspiring journalist. The industry is undoubtedly in a state of flux and even the professionals cannot predict where the business might be in the near future. Three professionals affiliated with the media industry, Mike Greenberg, Chuck Scarborough and Patty Marx, spoke with me over the past few weeks to try and make sense of the dark cloud that is the future of journalism.

Greenberg, co-host of ESPN's popular sports-talk radio show Mike and Mike in the Morning, has seen the industry change significantly in the past 20 years.

"In my generation, the [media] business just grew and grew with the advent of cable," said Greenberg. "Now, its just going in the opposite direction as everyone and everything is going digital."

The media industry, including those aspects of radio, television and print, has constantly had to adapt to technology as it develops. As Greenberg acknowledged, the person who is able to stay one step ahead of advancing technology will be the person who determines where the news industry is headed.

"There is going to be a time soon when a person gets into their car and does not turn on the radio. But what are they going to turn on? The people who figure this out are going to be the successful ones."

Scarborough, who has anchored the 6 and 11 p.m. news on WNBC for 35 years, has no doubt that the news industry will still exist in 20 years -- but in what form, he cannot answer.

"People will always need to get the news from some place," he said. "However, where and how that news is delivered is something that is always changing."

Scarborough noted that journalists of the future will need to master many more skills that accompany advancements in technology.

"Journalism is going to rely much more on the visual components. If you want to be an enterprising reporter, learn how to use a camera, learn how to edit the film, and cover it yourself," advised Scarborough.

Marx, a freelance writer for The New Yorker and Vogue, added that writing itself will probably become "shorter, quicker and more visual" in the future, as people become used to receiving important information in just a few sentences.

She agreed that is impossible to predict what the journalism industry will look like in 30 years.

"I think that after whatever happens, we'll look back and say, `Oh, of course! That was so obvious,'" she said.

Regardless of the media's future, Greenberg, Scarborough and Marx all agree that the best thing a young journalist can do is to keep writing.

"Get burned, get lied to, get rejected. Just keep writing and investigating, and do it again and again," Scarborough said. "Eventually, you will get there."

Alexandra Preiser is the Web editor-in-chief of Staples High School's newspaper, Inklings. Check out her work at www.inklingsnews.com.