Multimedia journalism calls for new skills without losing the old

Andras Nyiro, head of New Media Research & Development at Ringier

I do not think that we are faced with a life or death situation. Change is normal; new professions are being born; old professions are disappearing. This is how life is. We have to be open enough, and ready, to change, but this is not a special message to journalists, but to everybody who wants to be successful in the 21st century.

Andy Cowles, editorial director, IPC Media

Good journalism is always going to be with us. Understanding the reader, a sense of timing and good ideas are timeless skills. A compelling story is still going to get read and talked about.

What will be different is the variety of platforms on which that story will appear, and how journalists can retain control of it.

User-generated content already provides a real alternative to professional material, so journalists need to convince readers why their stories should be trusted over A N Other's blog. This means being crystal clear on the brand values, print or digital, and then delivering on them.

But more than this, journalism will be visual. There will be convergence of platforms, but there will also be convergence of craft. To be able to produce images, create video, control layout and manage colour will be just as important as good writing. Design, in its widest sense, is going to be at the heart of the new journalism.

Charlie Beckett, director, Polis, the journalism think-tank at the London School of Economics

The internet, mobile phones, satellites and the digital camera have transformed our business. But as each journalist can do more, we need fewer of them. Welcome to the era of SuperMedia and the hero of the age, the 'networked journalist'.

Networked journalists need to be better journalists than ever, because they are working with people who think they know better – the public. Information is everywhere and easily accessed by the public, so networked journalists have to add value. They must report, analyse and comment better than before.

In an age of information overload there will be even more demand for journalists as editors and trusted brands who can filter out the crap and package information in an authoritative way.

And, in a world of ever-increasing media manipulation by government and business, it is even more vital for investigative journalists to use technology to reveal hidden truths.

Networked journalists are open, interactive and share the process. Instead of gatekeepers they are facilitators; the public become producers.

Of course, they know how the technology works and how to work it – the phone-ins, blogs, the aggregator feeds – and are able to put video online, podcast and text alert. But, above all, networked journalists are not only clever enough to embrace the current set of changes but are also creative enough to exploit the next to arise.

John Ryley, Executive editor, Sky News

To thrive in the 21st century, look back to the 19th. Charles Darwin said: 'It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the cleverest, but the most responsive to change'.

Keep changing. We're now living in a world in which our consumers are our producers. Sky News was the first to broadcast video of the burning Cutty Sark at Greenwich, thanks to a viewer who sent the pictures of the fire from his mobile phone. Respect your customers; make the most of their ideas and knowledge, as well as their opinions.

Play to your strengths. Digital technology enables television journalists to take the best of what print has traditionally done – using space to provide analysis, context and comment – and, crucially, to combine it with video on several different platforms at the same time.

Remember you are not writing history: you are writing news. Publish what you know when you get it. There are no deadlines. When you get it, get it right, and get it out there – publish the information – however raw.   

Kevin Anderson, blogs editor, The Guardian

I've been an online journalist for more than 10 years now and was a newspaper journalist before that. During my entire career, the industry has lurched from crisis to crisis. Throughout it all, I've focused on one thing: how to advance journalism through technology. I wasn't interested in technology for its own sake – sometimes it complicates more than it simplifies. But I am interested in how to tell compelling stories through multimedia. What is the best way to tell this story? Which part is text; which part sound and which part pictures, either moving or still? New 'pro-sumer'equipment (consumer technology approaching the level of professional) in audio-video undercuts the cost of traditional broadcast equipment, and it's easier and cheaper than ever to file even video stories. What's more, I can also interact and engage with readers and viewers directly through blogs and comments. Over the previous decade, the most important lesson I've learnt is this: We've only really scratched the surface. We still have a lot of work to do and will the need people to do it.

Stevie Spring, CEO, Future Publishing

Professional journalism has a rosy future. Talented and creative writers able to research and tell a story succinctly and engagingly Рcontent curators who have craft-skills and sector expertise Рwill be in ever greater demand. But in a digital age they must be flexible. The converged media landscape means communicating appropriately for any medium. The skill of the headline, sound-bite or pr̩cis Рstill lives alongside long copy; but audio and visual reporting skills are now 'hygiene'requirements too. Learn them. Fast.

Lindsay Cook, MD, Specialist Markets, CMPi

The speed with which news, comment, gossip, analysis and data are produced has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. Everything is now instant and in a series of formats. On the web first, then in the newspaper or magazine, back to the web for a blog, webcast, audio or a forum and then back to the newspaper or magazine for analysis.

To survive, journalists need to embrace the change and get the skills. These are many and varied, and are no longer compartmentalised. Journalists need to be able to get the facts, edit them, take the photograph, do an audio interview, and maybe film a video.

But the great thing about the web is that you can try out lots of things out and drop them if they don't work. Newspapers and magazines are much more adaptable with many editions during the day and night. It means it is difficult to know who got the exclusive story, but easy to see who made the best use of the information.

Journalists will also have to learn to love their readers; user-generated copy is the way forward. The outside world learned almost everything about the Virginia Tech massacre from students and their web reports, not from journalists.

Nick Wrenn, managing editor, CNN International EMEA

In these days of multi-platform mayhem, do not ignore the basics. Accuracy, speed and persistence, combined with an ability to listen and learn, are the best platform, no matter how many gadgets your story appears on. After that, get technical. Apart from a few select people, the days when you'd focus only on print, TV or radio are gone. So, if it's second nature for you to record fantastic pictures on your phone, write and record a track, edit it all together and bang it up on your website in the time it takes to replenish the morning coffee, then you're off to a flyer. But don't hide behind the PC. Why instant-message when you can talk? Journalism is a terrific profession so be prepared for fierce competition and don't expect to get rich. And as you thumb your blackberry for the latest viewer comments on your story, or check out the latest video podcast, don't forget the power of the notebook, the Bic and a black belt in shorthand.

Edward Roussel, web editor, Daily Telegraph

The basics of journalism as true today as ever been: being obsessive about accuracy, good writing. It's about getting the basics of journalism right. But there will also be an expectation from your employer that you will be more flexible. You must be able to use your basic skills on different platforms such as TV. Flexiblity also means that if there's a big piece of breaking news you are able to provide 300 pithy words by lunchtime, when most websites have a peak in traffic, and a longer piece for the newspaper.

Damian Reece, city editor, Daily Telegraph

It's about having the right attitude, a willingness to be flexible and to really live the job. There are great opportunities out there with these different platforms. And if you don't grasp them somebody else will.

Laszlo Turi, New Media R&D consultant, Ringier

What journalists most need is practice, not an understanding of 'big science". They should be no more afraid of digital technology than of ironing. I can see everybody searching for examples of best practice and expecting to find the ideal solution somewhere else in the world. Support activity should identify elements of the problem (such as issues of workflow, training, or change of shifts) and list the answers. Newspapers should create their own combination out of these answers, instead of searching for the single complete solution.

Paul Brannan, deputy editor BBC News website

Audience members are no longer mere consumers of content, they are also creators who can become involved and engaged in acts of collaborative journalism.

Get that changing relationship right and the power of the newsroom is multiplied many-fold: more knowledge; more ideas; more perspectives, more expertise. User-generated content has lit up BBC coverage of major news events in recent years. Hand-in-hand with such change is the need for greater accountability regarding newsroom practices and the ethos of the organisation – Fairtrade news, if you will.

The dominance of the big beasts is gradually declining - their stranglehold on broadcast and print no longer holds. Anyone can become a broadcaster or a publisher on the web and Iain Dale's 18 Doughty Street is a good example of the speed of this revolution.

It's a mistake to see technological change purely in terms of impact on media production and consumption. Deep and profound societal change has also been set in train. Environment Secretary David Miliband has already spoken of an 'I can'and 'we can'era in which people are players, not just spectators. Pledgebank and TheyWorkForYou point the way as catalysts for grassroots action. The winds of political change will soon be rising up the Beaufort Scale and journalists must catch this new mood and embrace fresh ways of working.

Neil McIntosh, head of editorial development, Guardian Unlimited

The simplest way to assess the speed and depth of change is to look at the skills that will very soon be required among digital journalists. Guardian Unlimited is recruiting experienced television and radio journalists, and putting dozens of journalists who currently specialise in text - print and online - through training courses to give them what were once regarded as broadcast skills. But just having audio and video skills won't be enough.

The immediate need will be to bring the two together with text and still photography and, using Flash and other web technologies, piece together new ways to tell stories online. They'll understand the potential for user interaction to improve their work, and the power of database journalism to localise huge stories to the reader's street.

There aren't many big news organisations yet that have applied this technology and can still tell a story interestingly. Digital journalism, like so much digital development, will be about teams of specialists working together. For the moment, too many pioneering multimedia efforts are dull old things, swapping the yarn for a techy wow factor. But in the new world, the best storytellers will still attract a premium.

Tim Bowdler, CEO, Johnston Press

I don't doubt for the next 10 years and beyond that newspapers in the regional press will remain the primary channel into our communities and print journalism will remain incredibly important. The fundamentals of local journalism, of producing compelling local content, finding good stories and interesting angles that appeal to communities, will hold good whatever the channel.

Certainly the converged newsroom is the direction we will go. We are training a number of our journalist in audio visual techniques, and we have journalists reading news to camera for broadcast over broadband.

Jon Godel, editor ITN On and IRN

Journalism - whether now or in the future - is about telling people a great story. What's changing is the diverse ways people receive and perceive the information they consume. There are two challenges for the industry: creatingcontent that can be used on all devices and platforms and making that content so relevant that people feel compelled to participate. 

Oh Yeon-ho, CEO and founder of OhmyNews

A recurring fear among journalists is that the coming age of 'citizen journalism'would signal the end of journalism as 'a serious profession". On the contrary, the OhmyNews experience shows that trained journalists will be in greater demand as more citizen journalists start to produce explosive amounts of news

Without advice from trained journalists, bloggers risk being ensnared in legal disputes. The OhmyNews model is fundamentally different. We believe bloggers can work better with professional assistance from trained journalists. On the other hand, we also believe professional journalists can expand their view and scope greatly with fresh input from citizen reporters.

Ian Davies, director of development, Archant

When I worked in TV and radio, many of my editorial colleagues did not want to dirty their hands with the 'craft'of the medium. I felt it was important. As we move towards a more dynamic environment, the best thing you can do is work out how to use all of the tools you can to tell a story better than anyone else. How can you get better source material quickly? Does your audience have anything of value? Work that out then make sure you know how to use the tools without relying on anyone else.

Richard Preston, assistant editor, integration, Daily Telegraph

Grab any opportunity for training and learning new skills, whatever they are. They might be technical page building or learning a different type of journalism such as reporting for video. That said, all the core skills will remain key to everything we do in future.

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