For those who don’t know, I scored a scholarship from Google and AP, one of six they dished out in their first-ever run with this scholarship. It rewards students who are working on projects at the intersection of technology and journalism. I got it for my idea to make a game where you run for Congress (more on that another time).
So one of the perks of getting this scholarship was having the opportunity to not only attend the Online News Association’s annual conference — bringing together many of the digital journalist badasses in the industry — but I also got to speak on one of the panels, along with the other scholars. It was a loose panel where we talked about the “Anatomy of the New Journalist,” fielded questions from mostly veterans in the industry, and spoke about the values and skills we believe new journalists should have. Watch it here (I even make fun of myself!).
We were each asked to offer five values or skills for submission. The ones that received the most votes got talked about in great detail at the panel. I thought I would share the five I sent here in greater detail:
I used to be one of those grumpy competitive types when I first started journalism. I was always chasing the “scoop” before the competition did. I was always talking shit. Then I realized that it was the wrong way to go, especially as I moved more into the digital realm. No man or woman is an island; we all need help, whether we ask for it or not. And in this day and age, the best projects in journalism are happening between people, not from one person. Whether it’s Meetups, Hackathons, working with colleagues on a project, or simply contributing to the open X movement (I support the open data and open government movements), we are stronger in our numbers and the public is better served when journalists, technologists, and others work together for their benefit.
The journalism world is in a state of constant flux, and it will likely be that way for years to come. The best defense against this is to be as fluid as possible. Being willing to learn new ways to do old tasks, seeking out new tools and libraries to enhance your work, and being openminded to whatever technological innovation materializes will keep you ahead of the game while others are scrambling to catch up (I think of this in terms of finding work, cause we need money to live and inform). Being innovative also increases the possibility that you will find a tool that will save you time doing something else you already do. It pains me to think of the long hours I spent cleaning spreadsheets manually before I discovered Google Refine. You know you have a similar story. TIME IS VALUABLE AND SO ARE YOU 😀
This is something that the journalism schools aren’t teaching us, and I wish they were. If there was a time to go out into the world and experiment with a new form of storytelling or a new media property, it’s now. That state of constant flux I was talking about, it’s allowing a whole lot of entrepreneurial journalists an opportunity to experiment and make a living off of it. I’m thinking of recent examples like DecodeDC and Newsbound. It’s also causing a lot of failure, but that’s the nature of our industry right now. The economics are in disarray, but maybe you can find a way to pay for your journalism in a way you enjoy doing it. There’s no better time to break up the media monopolies on information than now.
This goes without saying. I’m sorry, but this is isn’t the time for nostalgia about the old days or of rejecting what everyone else in the world believes to be completely legitimate forms of communication (i.e. social media). As journalists, I don’t think we have that luxury. If we ignore the collective consciousness of Twitter, the self-reinforcing patterns on Facebook, the many tools available online to make our jobs a bit easier, we ignore a vast cultural artifact of the time and we do so to our determent. The Interwebs isn’t going away anytime soon. Learning how to navigate it, how to understand it, how to filter it, and how to gain something of value from it is a required skill for a journalist.
Finally, it doesn’t hurt to know a little bit about everything, while also specializing in what you find most passionate. Unfortunately, job security in our industry right now translates to having to know how to do as many tasks as possible. Of course, we rarely get paid more for it (see Entrepreneurial above), and that’s a whole other topic to talk about, but it’s good to be familiar with as much as possible. For me, I’m familiar with producing video, radio, data visualizations, programming projects, articles, design, and photography. Although my passion is in data and gaming, I can crossover when I need to. It’s also helpful for that whole collaboration thing I talked about before as well, to be able to speak and listen to the language of others who are far more skillful than you in those fields.