I’ve been asked to speak at the annual conference of the National Council for the Training of Journalists in Belfast on 30 November. The subject is ‘Digital skills and technology in journalism’. I’m working out a few ideas – in no particular order – here. Comments and suggestions welcome.
Even newspapers now expect – and provide training for – new skills. The core skills of journalism remain the same – finding, understanding and telling a story. But the technology is different.
New York Times are doing Video Newscasts daily with a 1 o’clock slot for TimesCasts and they are thinking about other scheduled programmes. Additionallly they have – for some time now included video reports on softer news areas. That is changing. “Our Goal is to real journalism with video” to quote Anne Derry, Editorial Director Video and Television NY Times.
And the new technology skills? Journalism by iPhone. The Wall Street Journal is training journalists to shoot video on iPhone and how to tell stories in video format and to send the video to the desk.
Once newspaper journalist took notes in shorthand, typed the report and delivered it by hand or by post. The radio journalist recorded on tape, spliced to edit it. The TV journalist’s technology was so complicated and specialist a whole team of people were needed.
When I began to work in BBC Online, the challenge was to separate the content from the platform. Content needed to be ‘platform neutral’. The concept is less challenging now – but it was a major shift in thinking for someone who had spent so much time in radio. But the skill that journalists need now is the ability to separate the story from the storytelling tools. And the wisdom to choose the right tools for the right context.
Whether that be video, text, twitter or whatever next is round the corner. The two questions to keep foremost in mind when a new technology comes along are: “How does it work?” and “How can I make it work for me?”. But don’t get too hung up on all that. Tell the story. Paint the picture.