Saturday, July 26, 2014

Editors: Journalism fundamentals still key

An online survey of journalists from around the world shows a strong interest in website video production, but also a concern that people in the profession maintain fundamental skills in writing and reporting.

“We need clear, concise, accurate content,” one editor wrote when asked what skills are needed for content creators.

 “I'm getting new grads who think that because it goes online it doesn't have to follow rules of grammar and punctuation. Lots of sloppy copy.”

The results are from an informal survey in July of our LinkedIn group, Online Reporters and Editors, which has more than 34,000 members. The participants responded to an email sent to all members. Of 510 who responded, 363 identified themselves as working in news, and about half of the news personnel said they were editors responsible for the work of others.

The responses came from more than three dozen U.S. states and 40 countries.

Sixty percent of the news respondents said they worked solely in online news operations. Seventeen percent said they worked in radio or television, and 40 percent said they did at least some work for newspapers.

Virtually all of those in the survey, more than 90 percent, said they were regularly posting text stories online.

Only about a third of the journalists said they regularly post video content, and of those, people who said they worked at newspapers were nearly as likely to post video as those who worked solely online – 32 percent and 35 percent respectively.

Asked to rank specific skills in order of value to their newsrooms, the journalists placed writing first (92 percent called it a “critical” skill), followed by “Running a desk, ability to direct the work of others” (52 percent critical).

Fifty-nine percent called video production an important skill, with 24 percent describing video skills as critical.

Just over half the editors said they are hiring content creators in the next year. Seventy-eight percent said video is a part of their news operations, and 39 percent called it a critical part.

Asked to describe the top skills needed for news content producers, many editors listed accuracy, clear writing, attention to detail and news judgment.

One said, “These are the skills I find are most necessary for those who work in our digital newsroom: The ability to work quickly and accurately. The ability to develop original ideas and see them through to produce content -- stories and/or video.  Source development, which is often sorely lacking these days.”

Responding in the survey’s open comments section, many of the editors said staffers should be comfortable working with different forms of media.

“They need to have a solid knowledge of HTML,” one wrote. “They need a solid knowledge of other technological tools that are standard components of our daily work.”

“Reporters should be able to complete simple (video) edits, have reasonable cameras and good audio,” another said. “They should have the ability to report and tell a compelling story using different media (text, photo, video, etc.) for various platforms (web, social, broadcast, external partner website, etc.)”

More than one noted the changing economics of news had created a sense of urgency.

“They need an eagerness to produce,” one wrote.

“Budgets are slashed. Staffs are skeletal. Vendors are taking our place with their advertorial that passes for ‘content.’ The barbarians are at the gates. If we don't produce, the mission fails.”

- John Strauss,

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