Adapt to the web or fail, Reuters chief warns 'old media'

The editor-in-chief of the world's largest news agency, Reuters, has warned that many established "old media" companies are likely to fall by the wayside in the internet age.

Speaking at the Press Gazette Student Journalism Awards at Reuters' global headquarters in Canary Wharf, Geert Linnebank delivered words of warning for the future of journalism, but revealed how he thinks news organisations can survive.

Linnebank told the cream of Britain's journalism students: "You are joining journalism at quite an extraordinary time. Technology has forced huge challenges on our profession for as long as it has existed.

"The internet provides an almost instant and almost cost-free way for anyone to become a publisher. A new blog is produced every minute, and new brands appear overnight from nowhere."

Linnebank said that although blogs provided a "richer" way of telling the story, they also raise issues over accuracy.

"Our traditional model involves checking first and then publishing. This clashes head on with the blog model, where you publish first and check later."

He added: "The need to be faster, more complete and more comprehensive is ever present and perhaps more so than before.

"The internet prompts us to take stock of our world as journalists. We can all see that journalism is changing around us — it's a real challenge, and a scary one for many colleagues who grew up and learned the trade the old way.

But it's also pretty exciting."

Speaking of the highly competitive nature of journalism, Linnebank warned that not all the current players would survive the internet age.

He said: "There's enormous change in our industry and change means new winners and new losers. But one thing that doesn't change is the sheer insatiable appetite for news. People want to know what's going on, they want it now, they want it everywhere and they want it in fantastic quantity and quality.

"Many new players will emerge from nowhere around blogs, video contribution sites, around new technology or in some way we haven't thought of yet.

"Some established old media companies will reinvent themselves very successfully, building new business on top, around or underneath their existing ones. And quite a few of the old media companies will fail because their readers or viewers don't view them as relevant any longer.

"I believe that journalism has what it takes to make it through and come out the other end stronger and more relevant.

Ours is more than a job, it feels like a mission. It needs passion and creativity, skill, a commitment to fairness and a fair dose of self-criticism — which is not always readily available.

"Perhaps most important is a real desire to listen very carefully to our readers, viewers and audiences — if we don't, they'll simply turn away and look for another place."

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