Don’t let new media distract from the fundamentals

In writing about the skills a future journalist will need it’s easy to dive into new media, innovation and the web.  The reality is for the most part they are distractions.

So much is assumed of the fundamentals of journalism.  The skills of “old” journalism are taken for granted when talking about the new.  Maybe it’s the arrogance of youth, but nothing can be assumed of these skills and in fact, they’re increasingly important.

The newsroom has changed.  Gone is the familiar structure of reporter, sub and editor.  In many newsrooms, such as Trinity Mirror Merseyside where I recently completed work experience, levels of sub editors have been reduced drastically. There is now much more onus on the reporter to sub their own work by writing to template and writing their own headings.

The killer app on your mobile – the phone bit.

My lecturer Andy Dickinson, coined this succinct phrase when speaking at the launch of the CNN mobile app at London’s Frontline Club. The telephone is a powerful journalistic tool, far more so than any twitter or email app on your mobile.  You’ll get much more out of your sources from having a chat than any email exchange. 

Shorthand is far from dead.  Many newsgroups will not employ you if you do not have shorthand.  For all the new media tools and audio recorders available to you, there’s many courtrooms and council meetings where they are not permitted. In cases of libel, shorthand notes are a protection where audiofiles may have been deleted.  There’s also technological and ethical problems with recording phone calls.

But new media and web innovation are important. They’re the added nth percent. They’re what will make you stand out as someone who is alert to the changes in journalism.  They’re excellent ways of consuming content and in a few cases have created great stories, but they’re no where close to usurping the old skills.
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