Today’s Thought: You’re not born a digital native

Being a digital native is not about where you start off, but rather it’s about where you end up.

So, when I say “Web natives need to lead Web operations,” I don’t just mean people who were born with laptops in their cribs. Anyone can become a digital native if they really want to.

But it requires hard work. It requires an inquisitive mind. It’s about loving the Web, not about career advancement.

Being a digital native is not about a bunch of marketing buzzwords like Web 2.0. It’s about truly loving technology and always being willing to learn something new. It’s about the joy of it all.

I can spot an impostor from a mile away — the kind of person who believes that the Web is a great way to advance his career. Digital natives don’t need incentive. Digital natives understand that “the Web is the greatest thing to ever happen to journalism“.

Being a digital native is about mindset and culture. Digital natives never, ever long for the good, old days for journalism. Digital natives look forward to the bright future of journalism.

I know the best days are ahead for journalism.

  • I agree & disagree. You’re right, it is hard work to become digital native, especially if you’re an old school journalist. It requires shifting mindsets that you’ve long since held. It requires realizing that you’re paying back tens of thousands of dollars on a student loan for a degree that has little relevance to this new Web 2.0 world. It takes swallowing pride. And it does take an appreciation for all Web and tech. That’s not always easy for us journalists. But there’s a (dare I use this phrase) tipping point where once you see the value, you almost can’t believe you were one of those “the Web is only going to hurt journalism” preachers.

    I think it’s perfectly fine to long for the good, old days of journalism, so long as you still are looking forward to the online future. There’s nothing wrong with reminiscing and wishing for a simpler time. That said, we’re on the verge of some exciting stuff with online media. If only newspapers, TV, radio, etc. could find a business model to make it worth dedicating more of their newsgathering resources to the Web. Once that happens, I think we’ll see great things with online journalism. Just look at @newmediajim for a fine example.

  • I think Pat’s points are important enough to challenge our own assumptions and should not be dismissed out of complacency or defensiveness. I don’t think it’s necessarily a binary matter of young vs. old or get it-don’t get it … so that with in mind, I’d like to look a little closer at the kind of characters we are and see around us each day. In no particular order, but with a great deal of respect and affection for each:

    The web monkey: Has a lot of bright ideas about the future of the web and news and pours them into his personal blog while he works all night writing teasers for the company’s homepage and wonders why those j-school grads can’t even tag their stories properly for the web.

    The careerist: Is comfortable working eight hours a day or more in a cubicle for a steady paycheck and health benefits from The Man, could be a web monkey if he realized it was easier than pagination.

    The entrepreneur: Has the risk-taking gene from an uncle who sold live bait, videos, tanning beds and satellite dishes, she always wanted to be a freelancer but now runs a community journalism site in her hometown and is hoping for venture capital or a few dollars a month from Adsense.

    The mojo: Veteran photographer or police reporter loves running from scene to scene all day with a front seat full of police scanners and gear.

    The databaser: Believes in computer-assisted reporting and is a real asset to the community but thinks EveryBlock should have been a 12-part series on health code violations.

    The developer: Knows Django and Drupal and many other world capitals and can build you a whole web site if you let him but he’s never had to get a headshot from a grieving family, has he?

    The networker: Gregarious reporter or columnist realizes Twitter is a great source for sources and knows all about Flicker, Bebo, Jott and the rest of the Banana Splits.

    The pioneer: Remembers covering a convention with a TRS-80 and acoustic couplers, ran a dial-up BBS and hung out in Compuserv and Prodigy, had an eWorld account and handcoded his company’s first html pages, thinks most Facebook apps are about as useful as those early fishbowl screensavers, and rolls his eyes when somebody says 2.0 because he remembers when the important numbers were 28.8 and 56k.

    The Selectric: Doesn’t have a computer at home and has never downloaded an MP3 or sent a text message but knows every road, street and avenue in the county and could make great Google maps but every five or six years the company makes him learn a new “front-end system” and what more do they want from him, anyway?

  • When you said “impostor,” I thought, wow, I am an impostor. Not that I am trying to use the Web chiefly to advance my career – and not that the Web isn’t extremely useful for doing that or that using it that way is bad – but what do you do if it’s not love at first site? What if you have to pretend a little bit until you have your Web religious experience? The alternative would be to let the Web pass you by, which wouldn’t be good for journalism or your career.

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