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Advice for online journalists in Serbia

Although all renowned newspapers, radio and TV stations already have their web sites, online journalism in Serbia has not achieved a wide-ranging presence, although it is the subject of many discussions. It is unclear for how long the traditional media's news web sites will be able to resist competition from the people who are active on the internet and who will set new standards for the Serbian media – and among them, the media that publishes news on the web.

The fundamentals of online journalism are being taught in many journalistic schools and in various training courses. Numerous conferences, lectures and presentations have emphasized the potential of the Internet as a new media space. Almost all of the editorial offices have hired journalists whose only task is to maintain web sites. Still, average readers cannot see any of the elements that are specific to the digital media and which make them more interesting than others.

News portals usually publish agency news without any modifications or authored news originally prepared for other media forms. In this process, needs of the audience are almost never taken into account. The audience wants something different, although it is often unaware of that.

There are various reasons for this situation – in their desire to honor deadlines, adhere to standards and keep their web pages constantly updated, without omitting any important news, journalists who maintain web sites usually publish every news they can lay their hands on, if it seems even remotely relevant. At the same time, online editions of many major media outlets are edited by volunteers, interns or youngest journalists who are willing to stay at work until late in the evening – when the number of visitors is largest. Multimedia content is usually comprised of rare YouTube clips or video recordings from TV news.

Although it is difficult to change the way of thinking and principles of editors and directors of media companies, it seems that it is also difficult to change the attitude of internet journalists, who are often unwilling to learn and adopt new things, seeing instead their current job as a path towards a position in the conventional media. The thing they should adopt are very simple and constitute the fundamentals of the functioning of the digital media in the world.

- Adopt new technologies – Although the task requires only the publication of someone else's news or, perhaps, writing of articles, it is also necessary to deal with the technologies themselves. Learn something new every month – explore CMS, source of web pages, ways to integrate multimedia, and HTML – the main language of the Internet. Looking for a job in online journalism without sufficient knowledge of technology is akin to searching for a position in New York Times without any knowledge of the English language. If you are not ready to learn, someone else will take your job.

- Follow the interest of the audience – Monitor the number of visitors of certain web pages in real time or on the next day. Keep your eye on the social media as well – they are a good indicator of what people are actually interested in. Adapt the content while taking into account the desires of your audience, but maintain good taste and adhere to the editorial policy of your media outlet.

- Learn how to communicate with the audience – Merely posting news on the web and allowing comments is not something to be proud of. In the case of the internet, a two-way communication between authors and the audience is recommended – and not only on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but at the web site as well.

- Learn something about multimedia – Learn fundamentals of video and audio editing, processing of photographs and design. If you already possess all these skills, try to learn how to make info graphics and interactive animations. The Internet requires multimedia and interactive content. Since it is not possible to include them in every news, they should be used in some of them.

- Take care of keywords – Optimization for search engines and analysis of keywords has became a skill that requires specialized approach, but each content that you publish should adhere to certain fundamental rules. This approach will benefit you and your media outlet.

- Love your job – The future of journalism everywhere in the world, including Serbia, lies in the online media. Aim to be the first in everything, to know and love what you do, and to be proud of yourselves in the role of a pioneer in a new and interesting profession.

Milena Jerkov

About the authors

MC Newsletter,
September 23, 2011

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