10 ways to think like a Digital First journalist by Steve Buttry

Posted on February 6, 2012


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.

  1. A Digital First journalist views a story as a process, not a product.
  2. 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).
  3. 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).
  4. When a Digital First journalist hears a great quote or an interesting fact, he thinks, “I better tweet that.”
  5. A Digital First journalist gets more excited about a lot of retweets or a prominent link to a story than about play on the front page of a newspaper.
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.
  8. When news breaks, the Digital First journalist thinks of good search terms to use in searching for tweets from people experiencing or witnessing the news.
  9. A Digital First journalist thinks journalism has a bright and boundless future.
  10. A Digital First journalist defies predictions and lists like this, thinking of issues, ideas and solutions no one has tried before and testing

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 succeeds at making money.

This series and other aspects of Digital First journalism were discussed in today’s #dfmchat, Storified by Ivan Lajara.

Update: Kathy Vetter of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has written a great response, elaborating on three of these points.