Enthusiastic adopter? Digital native? Doesn’t matter. We need them.

Sarah Hartley and others have taken offense to the term digital native.

They don’t want to feel like immigrants. That’s fine. I don’t want to get into a debate over semantics.

The terms mean nothing. The reality means everything. We need people at newspapers who get and use the Web — especially on Web staffs.

Maybe we should just call them (Web) technologists — regardless of how or when they got there. Newspapers need people who enjoy and understand technology, especially Web technology. I don’t care if it’s a 60-year-old woman who has only been an enthusiastic adopter for a few years or a young male who grew up with a laptop in his crib.

We need people at newspapers, especially on the Web and in decision-making roles, who are committed techonologists — people pushing the digital envelope. People willing to forge a new, modern frontier for journalism.

Andy Dickinson doesn’t like the term, but he believes we need more people with diverse skill sets and backgrounds at newspapers:

So what we need to talk about here are not digital natives but people who have gone native (or better still the enthisiastic adoptor that Sarah Hartley talks about.) Picking up on Pat’s theme, I want to see enthusiastic adoptors of any age get a chance to change the way things are done and make newsrooms look more like the community they serve. It is essential that we get more of that diversity that is so vital both commercially and socially.

Maybe everyone can’t be an enthusiastic adopter, but many working in the newspaper industry could if they really, truly wanted to. I am, however, always wary of people who seem to find God (the Web) when their lives (jobs) are on the line. My love of the Web has nothing to do with my job, and newspapers will only be held back by false Web prophets.

In fact, when I first graduated from college two years and began my job search, I found very few newsrooms looking for technologists or Web people to fill journalism roles. That clearly can be blamed on the fact that the people in charge didn’t value the Web and didn’t know how to staff the Web.

Now the tide is turning. People are beginning to realize that journalists need technology skills. But the tide can only fully turn when management begins to reflect demographics and when we Web staffs are filled with Web people.

We’re not there yet.

  • FWIW, they may not like it but there’s been a fair amount of academic research on the term. Henry Jenkins, the head of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Department, has authored a few books on the subject.

    I’m 36 — and I’ve been on the Internet since 1984 (when I was 12). I live my life as digitally as anyone, but the reality is, I didn’t grow up with technology. In other words, I’m not a digital native, but 24 years of using social technologies means I get how they work.

    Maybe you’ve used the term outside of the how it’s discussed in terms of research and the like, but you are right — it’s not the term that’s important in your discussion, it’s the reality of whether people “get it” or not.

  • hey Pat, if I wasn’t offended before (which I really wasn’t, btw), I could be now. It’s SaraH with an H 🙂

  • pat


    Ha! Totally fixed. My ex spelled her name without an H. This has been an unfortunate flashback.