Journalism skills – what you need to learn (and keep learning) to succeed

In the old days, just four or five months ago, if I met new people (remember that? going out and meeting people?), if I was asked what I did, I would say: “I am a journalist.”

Truth be told, that doesn’t really cover what I do at all. In the lengthy process of re-evaluating my business this year, doing an online business questionnaire revealed that what I actually do is help busy people get things done. I take the skills I have acquired and put them to use doing whatever needs doing: writing, editing, proofreading, sub-editing, online journalism, social media, being a shoulder to cry on, making a plan when things have gone wrong, providing gentle observations about what I see, helping untie management knots, cutting through to the heart of a problem, keeping track of projects… you get the picture.

I’m still looking for a word or phrase to sum that up: wingman? wingwoman? first mate? guardian angel?

And in the meanwhile, when asked what I do, I still shrug just a little, and smile, and say: “I am a journalist.” That’s what I spent most of my working life doing, and it is still a fundamental part of my identity, the tribe I belong to.

And because I care about the profession, even as it teeters on the edge of the abyss, I try to help people who are journalists, or who want to be journalists.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about what skills journalists need to in order to be effective. To recap, the list went like this:

  • Maintain all the old basic skills and values: Accuracy, fairness, balance, clear language, telling truth to power, public interest, accountability.
  • Tell stories (just in many different ways): Journalists need to master some or all the different platforms on which stories are now told.
  • Keep learning: Journalists need to keep up with trends and tricks, and keep upgrading their skills.

In this post, I’m expanding those two second items: new skills, and how to keep up.

In 2020, in addition to being resilient and hopeful, journalists need to master some or all of the following (and this is probably not a complete list!):

  • Video – how to find them, how to make them, how to edit them (and your phone is fine for this purpose)
  • Pictures – how to find them, how to take them (see above about your phone)
  • Ways to present text on mobile and web browser
  • Data journalism – at the very least how to scrape data and present it in ways readers can understand
  • Podcasts – listen to them, learn how to make them
  • Some HTML and an understanding of content management systems
  • Gifs, memes, emojis, AI, apps, – what are they, when to use them, when not to use them, what impact might they have on the world of journalism

And if you are already a working journalist, I’d recommend picking just one skill that you don’t already have – then research it and practice it. Move on to the next one when you can do a good-enough job. And good enough really is good enough: you need to be just good enough to busk your way through it. And all journalists know how do that!

Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your organisational or communication needs (coaching, editing, writing, social media).

Main photo by Plann on Unsplash

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