The poachers didn’t know they were being watched.

The reporter crouched only a few metres from where the men were setting traps in the dark forest. She took photographs of each of the poachers’ faces and used her laptop to e-mail them to the wildlife refuge station.

From the Global Positioning System tags embedded in the photos, the rangers were able to pinpoint her location.

When they swooped in and arrested the poachers, the reporter captured the action in high-definition video, and later interviewed the captain of the wildlife authorities to get his take on the impact of poaching.

That night, the reporter wrote her story, edited a multimedia package and e-mailed them to her editor at the international wire service.

Within hours, the story and video were making the rounds on news websites, and environmentalists were posting links to it from their blogs and social networking sites.

Is this a scene from a futuristic thriller?

Hardly. Welcome to the world of digital journalism, where one reporter is able to create entire multimedia packages that can be broadcast within hours of news events.

The frontier of journalism is a global place where individual reporters utilise both age-old crafts of journalism and off-the-shelf digital tools to uncover stories, capture evidence and instantaneously broadcast them to the world.

The technological advances in digital gadgets and broadcast capabilities in the past few years have caused a revolution in the way news is captured and shared.

Internet-savvy news audiences have come to expect near-instantaneous reporting.

They want content that makes use of the wide range of multimedia tools that are available and they want to share news immediately with their friends on social networks.

And audiences still demand quality journalism that delivers credible evidence wrapped in a compelling story.

Traditional news organisations are aware of these developments, and when they look to hire new journalists, they expect them to have a fundamental knowledge not only of traditional journalism but also of the way that digital technology can be utilised to create multimedia elements that add further dimensions to the story.

And it is not just traditional news agencies that are waking to the fact that hand-held digital technology has progressed to the point that one reporter can create such a wide range of content.

Freelance and independent journalists — whether they are writers, photographers, videographers or audio journalists — have more opportunities than ever to ply their trade. And they are doing it.

From creating specialist websites to reporting about individual incidents to selling their work to wire services and news agencies, the ability to earn a living as a freelance journalist has never been easier.

And therein lays the rub. Professional journalists complain that they are being edged-out by amateur reporters, and that cash-strapped news agencies turn to non-professionals who are willing to sell their work for below market rates.

This vicious cycle not only affects the livelihood of traditional journalists, but they argue that it also diminishes the overall quality of the news.

Industries change with technological advancement, and while the above argument has merit, there is no putting the genie back in the bottle: Hand-held digital media technology is here to stay.

What can get lost in the technological gee-wizardry are the essential elements of journalistic craft: the basic detection work of creating a network of credible sources, gathering persuasive evidence and weaving that evidence into an engaging story.

As the news industry continues to transition into the digital era, reporters who know the essential techniques of news gathering and have also mastered the technical skills needed to create compelling multimedia stories will become the industry standard.

And it will be this new kind of journalist — the digital journalist — who can travel lightly and report swiftly, that will have the greatest impact on both the news industry and what matters most: its audience.