If there’s one field of study in which the thought of future prospects is making students jittery, it’s got to be media studies. From journalism to advertising and film-making, digital disruption leaves no one exempt from its sweeping impact.
Is it time to switch major? What sort of internship should you apply for? Which organisation will suit your values and interests most? Where should you work after graduation? These are important questions students should be asking. The answers may lie somewhere in the major industry developments happening around the world:
1. More people are accessing news via private messaging channels
According to Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, there is a shift towards private spaces for news consumption and discussion. Brazil and Malaysia recorded the two highest rates of news access on WhatsApp, with 53 percent and 50 percent of respondents saying they used the app to find, read, watch, share or discuss news, respectively.
Using Facebook Messenger and Viber for news is more popular in European countries, especially Greece, Poland and Belgium.
This shift would hardly spell good news for budding journalists, as much like social media, they’re not easy sites to monetise to compensate for human labour.
2. Media Studies + MBA = $$$
If it’s top dollar you’re after, getting an MBA may be the answer. The average base pay for MBA graduates from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2018 was US$138,863, according to Poets & Quants. The lowest base pay started at US$$41,875 while the highest range started at US$240,000, both reported by Harvard MBA graduates.
— Poets&Quants (@PoetsAndQuants) August 2, 2019
These figures are almost two to three times more what marketing majors with a bachelor’s degree earned – US$53,400, as stated in a 2012 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
3. Robots are taking over and they’re starting with finance and sports news
In what looks like a journalism student’s worst nightmare come true, robot journalism is now a thing. Known also as automated journalism, this is what the future of Industry 4.0 could look like for media studies graduates.
Its use is likely to be for financially-focused news stories as such data are calculated and released frequently. Business news portal Bloomberg is one of the first to adopt this new technology through a programme called Cyborg, which last year turned financial reports into news stories, as a real-life business reporter would have done. Another AI, called Bertie, was used to help reporters write their first drafts and templates for news stories.
At Washington Post, its homegrown artificial intelligence technology, Heliograf, produced hundreds of short reports about the Rio Olympics, congressional and gubernatorial races on Election Day and DC-area high school football games.
4. Free speech under attack
In Southeast Asia, governments are increasingly enacting new laws to stem the spread of online disinformation and misinformation. While the official line is these would target false news, many critics fear they will be used to repress free speech by its critics.
Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) was gazetted into law on June 25, 2019. Malaysia’s new government is keeping its controversial 2018 Anti-Fake News Act. In Thailand, the Computer-Related Crime Act in 2016 lets the government clampdown on anyone propagating information it deems ‘false’.
Meanwhile, the Philippines’ version of the fake news bill now incorporates an updated version of the Penal Code, where it is now “unlawful for any person to maliciously offer, publish, distribute, circulate or spread false news and information”.
Media studies graduates planning to work in this area of the world, be prepared…
5. More media studies talent needed in Europe
A study on Journalists in Germany, Sweden and the UK found that the top issue facing newsrooms here is talent. There is a shortage, especially in regional and local newspapers outside of big cities, and a challenge more prevalent in Germany and Sweden rather than the UK.
“When asked about traits, skills and competencies that news executives and school heads
expect from applicants, they mainly mentioned character traits (curiosity, tenacity, etc.),
with only a few mentioning specific skills.”
Journalists with rural backgrounds were also found to be scarce, thanks to the decline in local journalism. The traditional career path of graduating from a local/regional to a national paper now no longer holds true. This decline in rural perspectives is posing as a diversity challenge in all three countries.