I am sure everyone has their own four or five things they can rattle off to a student or young journalist that answers that question. I do not think there is a wrong answer and I think there are many right answers.
A recent chat sponsored by the Poynter Institute talked about this very issue. Shazna Nessa a managing editor with the Associated Press led the conversation. She talked about the importance of being willing and able to collaborate, the importance of knowing the "ecosystem" of what is happening in industry and having "hybrid" skills.
I read the chat and agree with Nessa. I especially think it is important to have "hybrid" skills. The days of just being a writer or a photographer are over and I think it is beneficial for the industry. Now, everyone is expected and in my opinion should, be taking photos, writing print-style stories for the web and being able to shoot and edit video. It only makes the stories we provide to our audience that much more entertaining and valuable.
Nessa also discusses the importance of knowing how to build web interactives. She mentions that interactives are built by reporters now, not just web developers or IT staff members. With free and easy tools all around us, I think agree. I think everyone should be able to make an interactive map, a graphic, etc.
I would also add the following to her list:
- Flexibility: If you cannot "roll with the punches" this business may be just a tad difficult for you. Things change and if you cannot adapt quickly or be willing to move on to that next big story, no matter how long you have worked on another story, it is going to be hard to survive for too long.
- Social media skills: Whether it is Facebook or Twitter or whatever the next hot new social network turns out to be, being able to communicate, share and engage with viewers on sites they love is a necessity. The key is to recognize it is not just about sharing links.
- Being able to pick up a phone/get out in the community: Yes, e-mail is easy but it is for a reason. You cannot connect with a person like you can in person, you cannot read their emotions, see their expressions, hear their voice. E-mailing is great and I love it, but you have to be able to pick up the phone and interact in person with your community.
- Know your rights: It is so important to know what you are allowed to do and what you cannot. Where you can shoot video, where you cannot. Knowing what information you are entitled to, knowing what to fight for. If you don't know you can't stand up for yourself and demand answers that you deserve.
- Develop an expertise: Sometimes I think this goes unsaid. Yes, it is great to be knowledgeable and able to cover lots of topics. But, developing an expertise in a subject matter, an organization, etc. will make you invaluable to current and future employers.
What would you add to the list? Think something should be removed? Let me know, @LWalsh.
Lynn Walsh in the Investigative Producer for WPTV, NewsChannel 5 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Connect with her on Twitter, @LWalsh or send her an e-mail, Lynn.K.Walsh@gmail.com.