The Beakon: Redefining journalism*

*The Beakon is a monthly column written by the Talon’s very own editor-in-chief and ombudsman. Besides the punny nature of the title, (BEAK-on, an eagle body part just like TALON) the column serves as a beacon or guide for issues surrounding student press.

Picture a traditional newsroom. What do you see? Old, balding men smoking cigars, punching away at creaky, rusting typewriters? A pad of paper and pen in hand, running into a crowded street? You know, just a typical reporter after their latest scoop.

But, nowadays, what does typical even mean? How do we define journalism when its meaning is constantly changing, or worse, under attack?

Contemporary journalism is gradually transitioning into a converged form of itself, where its digital platforms are just as valued as whatever comes out in print. Therefore, two opposing sides arise: one that embraces the transition and one that does not.

Take the New York Times, for example. Vanity Times reporter Joe Pompeo wrote that the Times is constantly redefining their mediascape as they struggle to overcome a particularly seething generational divide in their newsrooms. The young, “woke” members of the Times staff recognize an ever-changing world, which they must immediately adapt to. On the other hand, the long-standing, “old guard” staff members are fighting for the right to uphold a respect for traditional news reporting.

Here lies a tension between the need to change — welcoming new tools and platforms — and the need for preservation of traditional processes.

The “woke” members feel trapped by the precedence of tradition, while the older generations tighten their grip on the past. In the heat of it all, the Times as a whole is trying to figure out how they fit into the digital present.

Pompeo wrote that women and people of color, more often than not, fall into the newer category of journalism. This representation led to newer programs like University of Missouri’s “Convergence Journalism” course, which prepares younger generations to step into a new form of leadership that praises multimedia communications. Over time, Pompeo wrote that new job positions like “reporters and community editors and social-media strategists; product people and visualization specialists and audience-engagement gurus; engineers and audio experts and data scientists” come into fruition.

The dichotomy still stands with a disconnect between what is journalistic and what is ‘un-journalistic.’ There is no correct answer as to whether the grizzled or more modern techniques of journalism should be used. Finding a harmony between the old and new could reflect the increasingly democratic and inclusive future of journalism.

Now, let’s return to ‘the bubble.’ Here inside the Oak Park Talon, we don’t have the same generational divide that the New York Times has. Without an existing struggle between the old and the new, we have become a meeting ground for all forms of media. It’s our job not to follow the past, rather pursue the future, because that is where our hopes and audiences lie.

Our audience is mostly young students and their parents who want to understand the world that students are immersed in. Informational pluralism is one of our top priorities: Journalism is a subject fluent in many genres of communications, meaning you can get the same information through a two minute video as you can in a one-thousand word feature. To be plural with your information, you must speak all the languages of journalism.

Therefore this year’s staff is aiming to achieve convergence in a variety of platforms, including interactive graphics, podcasts and broadcast media. We will integrate these new plans while maintaining and expanding our print editions. In addition, we hope to gain more awareness for the online Talon (yes, we have a thriving online Talon) because it aligns with our new practice of convergent journalism.

After that elaborate speech, I invite you to picture the Talon’s newsroom. What do you see? Young, hard-working students collaborating and punching away at pristine chromebooks? A camera and cell phone in hand, running up and down the “101 freeway” of Oak Park High School? You know, just a typical Talon staff member, looking to change the face of journalism in an ever-developing, ever-diversifying world.