Home > Journalism > Wanted: Required Web journalism skills
08 Feb

Wanted: Required Web journalism skills

Posted by 11 comments

NOTE: This piece is also running on OJR: The Online Journalism Review

With our industry in such turmoil, the constant technological changes, the evolution of news consumers and the uncertainty of the future, the question on the minds of veteran and aspiring journalists alike is what skills do I need to stay relevant, employed and innovative.

That’s the number one question I have gotten over the years. (That and equipment recommendations.)

Everyone has an answer.

There have been pieces written recently saying journalists need to become programmers. Debates over how important Flash is to a reporter. I even remember speakers coming to my class when I was in college advising photographers to look for other careers because still photography, they incorrectly predicted, was dead.

Um, they are pretty much all wrong, in my humble-yet-cocky-sounding opinion.

“So, smart guy, what’s your genius answer,” you ask. Well, it’s the same one I gave some ten years ago.

Know journalism.

The top skills required for a Web journalist are solid news judgment, strong ethics, thrive under deadline, accuracy and a mastery of the AP Stylebook. Other skills I include are knowledge of HTML, experience with CMS, working understanding of SEO, being social in Social media and the willingness to try new technologies.

Plus, the ability to tell stories in all media: text, photos, audio, video and the combination. At the very least, know and respect each of these crafts and how they are used on the Web.

But again, the most important skill is journalism, not the latest technology.

While I’ve been preaching this for a while, some people don’t agree.

So, I did a test.

I took nearly two-dozen New Media job postings from journalismjobs.com and compiled a list of skills they were looking for… then I ran the list through Wordle to visualize the top requirements.

I’ll let the image speak for itself.

If you must know, here are the skills I collected:
HTML, Mac, PC, AP style, news judgment, copy editing, headline editing, organized, interact with online readers and newspaper staff, multitask on deadline, video and audio editing, improve site traffic trends, OAS, posting information, wire copy, photos, HTML, CSS, sports fan, Copy editing, headline writing, nights, holidays, weekends, accuracy, attention to detail, problem solving, Photoshop, deadlines, optimization, innovative editor, search engines, social networks, headline writing, Financial news editing experience, multimedia approach to Web content, video, graphics, photos, polls, social networking media, Four year college degree, TV/Web production, journalism, new media, Final Cut pro, Adobe Photoshop, Basic script and package writing skills, strong editorial judgment, strong time management skills, work independently, tight deadline, detail oriented, live and on-demand video production, think like a producer, editor, and writer, basic video editing, program production, edit raw video, headlines and descriptions, leadership, web based experience, multiple media, print headline writing and editing, grammar, spelling, punctuation, usage and style, multitasking, news judgment, accuracy, news on the Internet, news wires, coordinate assignment and development of stories, video and interactive, accuracy, timeliness, balance, comprehensiveness, multimedia, Traditional journalism skills, move beyond text to tell stories interactively, team player, design experience a plus, desktop computer applications, editorial content from television and print, accurate, collaborate with editors, write copy, create compelling headlines and captions, organize multimedia and make sound news judgments, strong news judgment, blogosphere, passion for sports, flexible, quick-thinking, energetic, efficient, and able to work independently under pressure, attention to detail, crafting clever headlines and tease copy, choosing and cropping appropriate images, packaging, editing, writing for the Web, headline writing, image selection, and content packaging skills, AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style, work quickly, breaking news, deadline pressure, Basic HTML, Photoshop, online publishing tools, news judgment, blogosphere, flexible, quick-thinking, energetic, efficient, crafting clever headlines and tease copy, choosing and cropping appropriate images, packaging, editing, and writing for the Web, headline writing, image selection, and content packaging skills, AP Stylebook and Chicago Manual of Style, HTML, Photoshop, online publishing tools, technology experience and connections, IT reporting, editing experience, sharp writing, editing, write SEO-friendly content, tease text, HTML, write quickly, breaking news, technology reporting and editing, editing stories, news writing, interviewing, computers, word processing, news judgment, editorial, creative skills, journalistic ethics, libel laws, write clearly, AP writing style, TV camera operator, video editor, Adobe Premier, Final Cut Pro, news judgment, social media, Twitter, Facebook, aggressive, hard-working editor, multi-media reporting, social media, communication, organizational, multitask, multimedia production, editorial experience in print, online or broadcast, leadership, teamwork, interpersonal, under pressure, tight deadlines, problem solve, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, WordPress, content management systems, write, produce and post content, news editorial, AP style, Accuracy, Deadline-oriented, organized, multi-tasking, I-News, HTML, Adobe Photoshop, nonlinear editing, writing skills, editorial skills, attention to detail, writing and editing online copy, project management, social media, HTML, search-engine optimization, e-commerce, web analytics, basic programming, mobile, RSS, audio podcasts, video, writing, editing, and proofreading, Chicago Manual of Style, deadline pressure, Microsoft Office, writing, capturing visual content and editing stories, Videography, non-linear editing, Final Cut Pro, AP style, deadline, Lift up to 50 lbs.

If you want to check it out, here are the postings:

As a bonus, I created a Wordle based on the titles:
Online Content Manager, Editor, Search Editor, Business/Financial News Editor, Associate Producer of Video, Health Producer, Senior Editor for News, Sports Programmer, Personal Finance Programmer, Business/Technology Web Editor, Reporter, Combat Sports Reporter, Home and Garden Article Writers, TV ‘shoot-edit’ & web videographer, News Social Media Editor, Editor, Enterprising Legal Reporter, Interactive Managing Editor, Website Content Producer, Web Content Producer, Digital-Media Director, Multi-Media Journalist

What skills do you think are the most important for Web journalists?

Categories: Journalism
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  1. Joe Vazquez
    February 8th, 2010 at 23:31 | #1

    I knew it! This gives me hope …

    • February 9th, 2010 at 07:46 | #2

      But Joe, don’t kid yourself. Doing the same type of journalism storytelling from 20, 10… hell, even 5 years ago isn’t going to cut it.

      You need to use social media to connect with and talk to the community you are covering BEFORE you report, DURING your report and AFTER you report. You need to distribute your content everywhere, especially outside of your media company.

      What I am saying is that the core journalism values are still more important than the technology. (For the record, our industry doesn’t necessarily have a great track record of applying those values.) Don’t dismiss technology. That would be a fatal mistake… know how it applies to journalism and how it supports our values.

  2. February 11th, 2010 at 10:23 | #3

    I’m a journalist, writer, communicator, or whatever.
    I’ve been watching and reading a lot of group dialogues on social media and inbound marketing. I’ve read numerous twitters, LinkedIn discussions and, for the most part, it’s all a lot of hogwash to me.
    These people are trying so coyly to get discussions going. Some are obviously passionate about their work. Others are clearly in it to promote themselves. They remind me of a bunch of hungry wolves pretending they’ve gone vegan while they’re drooling secretly over the proverbial meat (the money). I have no doubt this social media stuff works but it doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. Personally, I have seen the English language literally destroyed by these inept literary wannabes and it makes me shudder to think they are the economic leaders of the future.
    What will the next generation be writing? Goo goo, ga ga??
    Oh well, you can’t fight city hall so there’s no choice for a person like me to either hang up my keyboard or go with the flow.
    Business owners no longer care about good writing; they hire graphic designers as communication specialists and these people couldn’t write a letter to home asking for lunch money.
    It’s totally frustrating!
    That’s my feeling about it all.

    • February 11th, 2010 at 11:02 | #4

      Hmmm… Wayne, I agree with some things, but not all.

      Social Media is an incredible tool that allows for the community, including reporters, to interact with the community in a new and engaging way. It’s quite powerful and an essential tool in journalism. Yes, there are creeps out there that are trying to make money in shady ways, but that’s not tied to the technology… that’s capitalism.

      I don’t think that Social Media is the downfall of our language. (I do agree that it exposed our weak spelling skills.)

      Language evolves, just like our communication methods. Carved stones, inkwell pens, handwritten letters, etc… these all evolved. Just like their distribution evolved: Telegraph, snail mail, telephone, email, Twitter, etc.

      Sure there are some very bad writers limited to 140 characters, but there are also some bad writers who can’t limit themselves to 14 inches of copy.

      I do wholeheartedly agree we are at a crossroads of what is acceptable “quality” in storytelling – text, photos, audio, video, etc. But it’s not the business’ level of quality that I wonder about… it’s the readers’.

      That said, if our readers don’t care about spelling and prefer information in smaller chunks, who are we to look down upon them? We need to report and distribute information to help people to be informed citizens. Size and distribution doesn’t matter as long as they get accurate, relevant information.

      I still believe that the quality of content is key. That doesn’t change, regardless of pixels or paper or airwaves.

      But being in a corner holding tight to our typewriters and the idea of the “good ol’ days,” in my opinion, is what got us into this mess. We didn’t adapt with our readers. We got lazy, spoiled and out of touch.

      Blaming change misses the point. Change is essential, as long as we don’t change our values.

      And lastly, copy editors are ESSENTIAL. For some reason newsrooms are laying them off because they think that craft is over. Oh what a rude awakening they will get when a typo leads to a major lawsuit.

      I learned the value of the copydesk early in my career and how they make me sound smarter in my pieces. I’ll be the first one to admit I need an editor for my posts, emails, tweets and comments. I write like I talk… which isn’t grammatically proper. But I would also argue that my message is still relevant.

      Thanks for your comment and your point of view. It’s a great discussion we need to have and not shy away from.

  3. March 3rd, 2010 at 04:59 | #5

    @Robert Totally agree with you. The medium for getting the message out has changed; maybe we can say it has even evolved into something far more predictable and effective. The 140-character limit is a plus in many ways. Personally, I have no problem with spelling shortcuts. All writers need a good editor, myself included. My only concern is that today’s educational system is letting our kids down. I’ve seen teachers who can’t spell properly so they can hardly teach it to the kids. I sometimes wonder if bad spelling becomes the accepted norm, how many generations down the line will not even know the difference. We should always write as we speak; I agree. That is communication at its best.
    I’ve recently seen errors such as “its” being mistaken for “its.” Just this morning I read a blog where the word “intimacy” was spelled as “intamecy.” Is that a typo? I can only hope and wish. It was obviously not done to save character space, and that concerns me.
    Okay, I’m a word nerd.
    I believe the web has created a new generation of general public “journalists.” Is that good or bad? Well, it’s good and bad. Good that everyone has a say nowadays; bad because too many people aren’t bright enough to question all they read and check for other opinions or sources on a relevant topic.
    An example is the newest trend toward online bullying among high school kids.
    In Toronto, I’ve recently read where Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) employees started a Facebook page to confront the public (riders) about recent criticisms on their job performances. Not wrong but they can easily delete opposing opinions.
    Anyone who doesn’t take the time to read the local papers, watch the news, or look for other opinions could easily be swayed.
    I guess my concern is not actually the power of social media to sway; it’s that I wonder if the general population’s dumbing down is a reality and a real concern. I have no doubt our kids know far more than we did; they have more complete access to a myriad of information I didn’t have as a kid. Trutfully, however, I wonder if they are sometimes “dumber by choice” than the previous generation.
    Computers possess most of the world’s knowledge nowadays but they are still as dumb as doorknobs because they have no real intelligence or imagination to assimilate that information into something coherent without human input and control. I hope it always stays that way, however, lol.

  4. July 28th, 2010 at 11:37 | #6

    Enjoyed reading your blog and everyone’s comments. I have started a blog with a similar (Nedfinity) theme and for some reason the links, blogroll and calendar that appear in your right column are absent in mine. I wondered (if I’m not being too cheeky) if you had any ideas…

    • July 28th, 2010 at 12:13 | #7

      Hey Mel, those are widgets that came with the theme… I added them to the “north_sidebar.” I did hack this theme a tad, but mainly changed the graphics and adjusted the width.

  5. July 29th, 2010 at 00:45 | #8

    Thanks Robert, I have a fiddle in a few days. I’m just off for a long weekend. Your reply is appreciated, Mel

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