Roy Greenslade at the Guardian has flagged up a great post on the 12 Things Journalists Can Do To Save Journalism, penned by Howard Owens.
The tips are great. They are based on three observations – readers are in control, readers don’t care about your deadlines, and readers want to share their own opinions on any given story.
I’ll reveal Howard’s tips after the jump, and add a few more suggestions of my own…
We’ve witnessed a massive cultural shift in the past three years, underpinned by broadband and blogging. Broadly speaking, publishers have left it late to adapt their businesses but we’ve seen some remarkable efforts to embrace the web in the past couple of years.
So how can journalists futureproof their careers? Let’s take a look at Howard’s 12 tips:
- Become a blogger. By this, I don’t necessarily mean ‘start a blog’, but that is never a bad idea. More importantly, become an avid blog reader. Blogs should be a daily routine for every dedicated journalist. They should read every blog related to their beats.
- Become a producer. Pick up a digital recorder, a point-and-shoot camera or a video camera and start producing content beyond text. The goal is to understand DIY. Post stuff on YouTube, Flickr or any number of other UGC sites.
- Participate. As you read blogs, leave comments. If your newspaper.com has comments on stories, read the comments and add your own.
- Build a web site. It will greatly expand your mind about how the web works if you go a bit beyond just setting up an account on Blogger or WordPress.
- Become web literate. You should know what Flash is, and how it differs from AJAX. You should know the meaning of things like HTML, RSS, XML, IP, HTTP and FTP.
- Use RSS. You need an RSS reader and lots of RSS feeds to consume.
- Shop online. You will learn stuff about the digital life if you shop on Amazon, Ebay and other ecommerce sites. As you do, think about how these sites work and why they’re set up as they are.
- Buy mobile devices. Learn what digital life is like when you’re not shackled to a desktop machine.
- Become an avid consumer of digital content. Watch videos on YouTube. Visit the best newspaper sites in the world and watch what they’re doing. Turn on your TV less and your computer more.
- Be a learner. Technology and culture is changing fast. You can’t keep up unless you’re dedicated to learning. Eric Hoffer: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future.”
- Talk about what you’re learning with your co-workers. Be a change agent.
- Finally, read Journalism 2.0 (PDF) by Mark Briggs. You’ll learn about the stuff covered above and how it is changing modern journalism.
I agree with all of the above, with the possible exception of ‘build a website’, which isn’t necessarily going to help you become a better journalist, though I understand Howard’s reasoning.
There are three others to throw in there…
- Get Search. Understand why Google is so important, to consumers and to advertisers. Figure out how to write Google-friendly copy, links and headlines. Know the difference between paid-for links and organic results. Search for your own stories to see where they land in Google, and keep an eye on how your rankings rise and fall (and work out why this might be). If content is king then search is King Kong.
- Have an opinion. Ideology aside, journalism simply isn’t objective. Journalists might file thoroughly objective copy, but any number of editors and sub-editors (not to mention publishers, proprietors and, goddammit, advertisers) can influence stories. Andrew Neil says it isn’t about scoops any longer, but ‘scoops of interpretation’. I think he has a point.
- Do It Now. Howard makes a similar point at the end of his article, and it’s perhaps the most important one. The point is this: if you’re a journalist thendo not wait for your employer to issue instructions from above. Publishers are by and large too distracted with some fundamental business model issues to be completely on the ball with regards to staff training. It shouldn’t matter. The best journalists are curious, proactive, and switched on to the fact the world is changing. Their world is changing too, but their choice of career doesn’t have to.