Posted on June 5, 2009
Skills needed by today’s journalists
Renee Barnes is a radio journalist in Australia; she also teaches online journalism there. In her blog News Frontier, she recently asked readers to rank eight skills, or skill sets, for new journalists:
- Evidence of blogging and interaction with a wide range of blogs
- An understanding and active use of social media (Twitter, RSS, social bookmarking etc.)
- The ability to tell an engaging story using still images and audio (audio slideshow)
- Ability to shoot, edit and tell stories using video
- Basic ability to create interactive story elements using Adobe Flash
- Ability edit audio and produce podcasts
- Ability to file from the field breaking news
- Ability to moderate online discussion
Actually, Barnes said “online journalists,” but I think that means ALL journalists.
I like the way she broke up the skill sets. I also liked reading the responses she received on her blog. Several people rated 1 and 2 very highly; some thought 7 was paramount; most put 5 in last place, and I would agree with that. After all, she’s asking for “most important” skills — for journalists across the board.
My ranking would be 3, 2, 7, 6, 1, 8, 4, 5.
I think that without the ability to do No. 3 well, the rest just falls by the wayside. Too many journalists have trouble recognizing (and ignoring) a tired old story that no one wants to hear. Too few have a knack (and the true curiosity) to sniff out a unique story that will catch almost anyone’s attention. You can’t do No. 7 properly or well if you have not mastered No. 3. Moreover, No. 6 is vital to both video and slideshows. If you can’t do audio well — gather, edit, format, equalize, and output — you can’t do video either.
One skill I would definitely add, for a new ninth item, is interviewing. This goes hand in glove with 3, 6, and 7. In listening to raw audio of student journalists’ interviews, I hear that they often ask terrible questions, fail to listen attentively, miss many opportunities for follow-up questions, and sometimes flat-out fail to ask the most necessary questions. Interviewing does not come naturally like breathing, and I think we’re neglecting it as a skill to be honed in many of our classes. Yes, we teach about interviewing — but how many journalism educators actually listen to their students conducting a one-on-one interview?
(Thanks to PhilChubb for pointing out Barnes’s post to me.)