The growth of social media and the proliferation of digital tools have placed new demands on today’s journalists and, at the same time, made it easier for professionals to do their job.
In this blog post, I consider the skill set needed by 2.0 journalists and the various tools they have at their disposal today.
Journalists Must Become Brands
His life is a useful lesson for anyone aspiring to work in a profession that demands consumer engagement through a variety of media.
Ebert began his career at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966 and worked there until his recent death.
According to David Carr of the New York Times, Ebert treated his output as a product he could sell and not a job or vocation. In otherwise, he applied a business mindset to his journalism.
Ebert was one of the first journalists to market himself online through RogerEbert.com and he used the web to continually reinvent himself, even when illness forced him to cancel his TV appearances.
He also used his website to communicate with fans of his writing around the world. Journalists can learn a lot from his approach to his craft.
Local is Global
Like Ebert, a modern journalist needs to think beyond the local and should consider how to target content at a wider audience. Although, there are more demands on journalists today than when Ebert began his career in 1966, journalists have access to more tools and information.
Media professionals can write a blog about the process of journalism using tools like WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger. They can use a personal website to showcase their work or, if copyright is an issue, to draw attention to their work. They can even blog about the process of journalism itself.
Journalists can (and should) use Twitter and LinkedIn to engage with their readers and foster contacts. They must become editors of social media because it is part of their job to create a conversation and draw online traffic to their work.
Great news is still local but journalists should write about local issues with the caveat that their stories may be read in distant places.
Whether journalists (and their paymasters) like it or not, news aggregate services like Google News gather content and distribute to discerning readers around the world.
A New Skill Set
The distinction between print, photo, broadcast and online journalism is eroding. Newspapers like the Guardian produce audio podcasts, radio stations like Newstalk have video feeds in their studios, and websites like Mashable collate media for their readers.
A journalist who wants to connect with an increasingly digital audience has lots of tools at their disposal. There are networks to master like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Vimeo, YouTube, Vine, WordPress and Tumblr. There’s writing and designing news content for the web.
And then there’s ensuring this content not only looks good is easy to find. There’s the translation of complex reports into appealing infographics.
And there are software programmes like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Photoshop, InDesign and Audacity. And there are even those who say journalists should understand web languages like HTML and CSS and know how to code.
A 2.0 journalist may use all (or none) of the above within the course of their working week. They don’t need to be experts but they do need to understand how to quickly find the right kinds of information and support. Some useful digital tools include:
- Dropbox and Google Drive for accessing and editing content on the go
- Evernote or Simplenote for managing documents, web snippets and capturing ideas
- Wunderlist (or another to do list manager) for managing projects
- CallRecorder or WireTap for recording interviews
- TweetDeck for managing Twitter feeds and accounts
- Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts for international calls and instant messaging
- Audacity for creating podcasts
- aText or TextExpander to accelerate writing
- AftertheDeadline (a Chrome extension) to check spelling and grammar on the go
- Mailbox to quickly process emails from an iPhone (there’s an Android version in the works)
- Bufferapp for managing when and where content is published online
- Google News Alerts for monitoring relevant and recently published online stories
Learning keyboard shortcuts can save a writer hours of time; if you only learn one, make it control+shift+t. Codecademy and W3Schools can teach a journalist the basics of HTML and CSS. Journalists serious about writing online content can save a lot of time if they learn and use Markdown.
Despite recent technological advances, the essence of journalism remains unchanged: that is the finding and dissemination of news and information in the public interest through various media.
The manner in which a journalist works is, however, shifting and it is up to journalist today to figure out which digital tools are most relevant to their craft and how best to use them.