Disrupting Traditional Journalism: What I have learned about being a successful digital media journalist

Young Lady at the Writing Desk by Auguste de La Brely. Source: https://a.1stdibscdn.com/a_4473/1597574408992/LA_BRELY_666C_master.jpg?width=768

1. Explore original approaches

  • Although traditional news organizations were successful for centuries, their time is almost gone, with new, inventive companies like BuzzFeed gradually taking their place and stealing their readership. “BuzzFeed’s journalists think they are more attentive to audiences and more willing to experiment than those working in traditional news organizations,” Tandoc and Foo argue (2018). However, their journalistic standards remain the same, and it is the approach itself (more interactive, user-experience-oriented content) that is different. 

2. Gain Cultural Capital

  • What makes BuzzFeed so successful is its cultural capital – the knowledge of popular culture and demand that keeps it in the top until this day. 
  • The non-traditional story-telling formats (in the forms of lists and quizzes) differentiate it from other news platforms and win the hearts of readers by offering something strikingly new in the sea of similar, bland news articles (Tandoc and Foo 2018). 
  • At the same time, BuzzFeed hired a lot of well-known journalists who worked for traditional news organizations many years, thus also contributing to the platform’s cultural capital, albeit in a different manner (Tandoc and Foo 2018). 
  • Therefore, a combination of relevance, freshness, and time-proven traditions is key to success (and more significant cultural capital)!

3. Don’t overreact!

  • Know what is significant and what is a mere trifle.
  • Feinberg references Bret Stephens’ Aug. 30 column, “which warned that Nazi-style propaganda was on the march because he couldn’t handle being called a bedbug in a joke on Twitter,” to show the readers how easy it is to make a click-bait title for something that is not worth the audience’s attention (Feinberg 2019).
  • Therefore, pick your topic carefully and ensure that it is not based merely on personal offence; otherwise, you risk overreacting and boring your reader!

4. Make sure to use the right format

  • Professional journalists abide by the AP stylebook, so ensure you have sufficient knowledge of this resource (Nichols 2021).
  • Write an intriguing “lead” (the first sentence of your article that summarizes its main points: who; what; where; when; how) (Nichols 2021).
  • Use the inverted pyramid structure: put the most exciting facts at the top and leave the dullest details for the end. 
  • Don’t overestimate the attention span of your readers – use short sentences!

5. Become a great Interviewer first

  • If you want to be a journalist, why not practice interviewing?
  • People are excellent sources of information, and the best strategy a journalist can use is determining the most important person who has the most crucial information; this skill requires a lot of empathy and intuition which you could enhance by being more outgoing and doing “practice interviews” – practice makes perfect (Nichols 2021).
  • Observe and collect data while you are interviewing – remember that some gestures speak louder than words!

PRO-TIP: Generate an online following (Nichols 2021). Modern journalists can’t survive without at least a popular Twitter account. 


  • Feinberg, A. (2019). “New York Times Columnists vs. the Haters.” Slate. Retrieved from https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/09/it-didnt-start-with-the-bedbugs.html.
  • Nichols, L.D. (2021). Working in and with Digital Media – Part 2. Lecture. WRI227.
  • Tandoc Jr, E. C., & Foo, C. Y. W. (2018). “Here’s what BuzzFeed journalists think of their journalism.” Digital Journalism6(1), 41-57. PDF.

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