Digital-first journalists think creatively and individually, so this is a post that can’t be completely true.
To whatever extent my observations here are true, digital-first journalists will reflect wide variety in the degree and application of the ideas and views I describe here. But I think these are ways many digital-first journalists think that differ from traditional journalism thinking.
- A digital-first journalist views a story as a process, not a product.
- A digital-first journalist likes to be first with the story or the idea, but likes to link when she’s not (as I linked above to a blog post where Jeff Jarvis discusses the view of the story as a process).
- A digital-first journalist thinks of the community as collaborators who can provide crucial information if you ask them (and may already be providing that information in their blogs and tweets).
- When a digital-first journalist hears a great quote or an interesting fact, she thinks, “I better tweet that” (after I verify it).
- A digital-first journalist gets more excited about a lot of retweets, likes, favorites, retouts, pins or a prominent link to a story than about play on the front page of a newspaper.
- A digital-first journalist thinks of obstacles as the details in her next war story, not as an excuse not to get the job done. (That’s a traditional way of thinking about news stories; the digital-first journalist applies that thinking also to technology obstacles and business-related obstacles.)
- When a digital-first journalist learns of a new gadget or social tool, he starts trying to figure out how to use it to do better journalism.
- When news breaks, the digital-first journalist thinks of good search terms to use in searching for tweets or other social content from people experiencing or witnessing the news.
- A digital-first journalist thinks journalism has a bright and boundless future.
- A digital-first journalist defies predictions and lists like this, thinking of issues, ideas and solutions no one has tried before.
Digital-first journalists are thoughtful and creative. Ten is not a magic number and this is not a complete list. What are some other ways of thinking that distinguish the digital-first journalist?
This is the third in a series of posts about digital-first journalism. I wrote earlier about how we work and what we value. Tomorrow I will address leading a digital-first newsroom, then how digital-first news organizations can succeed at making money.
Update: Kathy Vetter of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has written a great response, elaborating on three of these points.
Update: I originally posted this Dec. 21, 2011. I updated it June 19, 2013.
September 2014 update: This post originally referred to my work for Digital First Media and thus capitalized Digital First throughout. I have left DFM and thought I should update this. I am still a huge believer in digital-first journalism, and still plan to lead workshops based on the points here, but I thought I should update this post to reflect that I’m talking now about an approach to journalism, not a specific company.