The Future of Journalism Will Not Be Televised (Just Discussed Over Croissants)

What is the job description of a "digital media leader?"

It's a perplexing question, but what's indisputable is the fact that whatever definition one comes up with, it will be dramatically different than the definition five, 10, or 20 years ago. The terrain continues to evolve, upending traditionally held expectations about the intersection of journalism and technology.

Take, for example, the emergence of the position known as a "visual data journalist." The role probably didn't exist five years ago. To paraphrase a report from the Stanford Journalism program, the job finds journalists borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers, and artists in an effort to collect, analyze, and translate data into "traditional narratives" by utilizing "sophisticated, interactive information displays."

A far cry from the Pentagon Papers, no?

Now, as we've mentioned previously, foundations like Knight are funding outlets like ProPublica to launch new ventures like crowdsourcing journalism. "Out there is a stats major or a math nerd who doesn’t know journalism is an option for her but would make an amazing data journalist. That’s who I’m hoping we can bring in," said Scott Klein, assistant managing editor and the lead for ProPublica’s News Apps team.

This same logic underscores efforts to define the role of "digital media leaders." It's one of those terms that can yield 10 different responses from 10 different organizations. For brevity's sake, today we'll look at only one organization, which also happens to be extremely important. That would be the Dow Jones Foundation.

The foundation recently awarded a $50,000 grant to the Online News Association (ONA) to support a second series of networking events for digital media leaders. The grant allows ONA to continue its Digital Leadership Breakfasts, which consist of four invitation-only events held quarterly through early 2016 in Los Angeles, Denver, Miami and either Boston or Austin.

The first event will be held in Los Angeles in September, which coincides with ONA's annual conference, and will feature Charo Henríquez, executive digital editor, People en Español, and Alan Soon, founder and CEO of The Splice Newsroom. They will be discussing "profitable digital expansion into emerging global media markets."

"We're delighted to again be able to offer a safe space for senior leaders in digital media to have valuable, candid conversations," said ONA Executive Director Jane McDonnell.

As for the ONA, it announced the winners of its 2015 Challenge Fund for Innovation award back in April. For more analysis along those lines—including the ONA's burgeoning interest in virtual reality technology—click here.