Are journalists really only as good as their last story?

Has the old newsroom cliche that ‘you’re only as good as your last story’ still got any merit?

When I began my journalism career on local newspapers 20 years ago the newsroom was a very different place than it is now. Reporters adopted a long-term news-gathering strategy by nurturing their contacts, building relationships with public bodies, organisations and businesses and keeping an eye on developments on their news patch. They would religiously update their news diaries and rely on their instincts when reacting to breaking news and if a good tip came their way they knew the best way to ‘stand up’ the story and secure the sort of exclusive that would put in a smile on a news editor’s face. Moreover, a great story could top the news agenda for several days and produce several follow-ups, earning an eager newshound much kudos in the process. They could then bask in the glory of their success before putting their nose to the ground and sniffing out their next story.

But technology and social media have transformed the media world and with fewer trained journalists this has opened to the door to more PR-generated stories. News organisations use analytics to assess their performance so a journalist’s output, online clicks and social media reach are closely scrutinised. The job description has also changed and many reporters have to video, live blog and tweet as events unfold and act as their own news editor. The scale of some news sites means there is added pressure produce engaging web content every day while today’s 24-hour news cycle means the news agenda is constantly changing.

All this means that the cliche is still relevant but chasing the next big scoop has always been essence of journalism.

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