Practice makes perfect.
That phrase has been drilled into the heads of everyone since they were young children, whether it was mothers reminding their six-year-olds to practice the same monotonous scales over and over on the piano or dads playing catch with their sons in a suburban backyard, assuring them that they would make it to the MLB if they constantly tossed a baseball to and fro. Experience makes you flawless and skill is a shining star on résumés.
What if I said this was wrong?
In a lecture about the uses of social media and technology in modern journalism led by Eric Stearley, he contradicted this popular saying with a surprising comment. Younger journalists have the upper hand compared to more experienced journalists.
Younger journalists are social media pros, and in today’s internet-crazed society, that’s an important thing to be. Breaking news might not be relevant in a week when a print publication comes out, or even a day. Breaking news needs to be sent out immediately, via Facebook or Twitter, which may be foreign terms or concepts to the older generation.
If I had a dollar for every time my dad asked me to help him use social media, I’d probably be a billionaire by now. A few months ago, I set up an email, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat for him so he could keep in contact with my siblings and me. As I watched him fumble over buttons and keys, I would be asked frequent questions about how to zoom in on Instagram (which is impossible), how to follow someone on Twitter, and how to view a Snapchat. I’ve only been alive for sixteen years, while he’s in his forties. He definitely has more life experience, but is clueless when it comes to social media, as are most others his age.
It’s been proven that the internet is an effective way to get out news stories. Eric Stearley discussed how one internet post on Reddit drew in 62,000 people to their news site that covered the events of a simple, rural town, as opposed to the typical 3,000-4,000 visitors. A single Facebook post can be liked, commented, and shared to other friends and it starts a chain reaction. One view can suddenly become thousands. The internet can do something that a print newspaper never could: it’s instantaneous and extremely easy to pass along. Without growing up in an era of phone-obsessed people, always procrastinating by scrolling through various news feeds on social media, it’s hard to pick up these new skills.
The older generation of journalists entered a divided newsroom many years ago. There were the writers, the photographers, and the graphic designers. They were specialized in one specific category. Writers have no idea what to do when a camera is thrust in their direction and photographers can’t hold a pen and notepad. However, young journalists were trained to be versatile, well-rounded reporters. If you can only do one specialized job, you won’t be hired onto a staff, plain and simple.
According to Stearley, the difference between young journalists and older journalists is that the more experienced writers tend to focus on how something is supposed to be, while the younger ones focus on how something can be. It’s a comfort issue; people generally like habit. Those who don’t know any better will have fresh ideas.
Think about it this way: if we kept things the way they were supposed to be in journalism, online media wouldn’t exist. As newspapers died out, so would the entire industry. The point is, evolution is necessary to sustain journalism, which comes in the form of youth.
So, practice doesn’t make perfect. Perhaps amateurity makes perfect.