Skillset, the body that supports skills in the UK’s creative industries, has released the results of a survey into the skills currently required of journalists. It makes for interesting reading and it is VERY relevant to YOU whether in or out of work.
First, let me explain why journalism is important if you want to work in TV. If you studied media you probably know the answer already. If you don’t then you should write to your college and give ‘em hell for not explaining it and how journalistic skills are crucial in television production!
I confess I always saw ‘journalism’ as reporters in macs chewing on a pencil with a shorthand notebook, interviewing, writing and creating stories for the newspapers. It took me a while to realise making television is journalism. It’s about telling stories and if you don’t have the necessary skills to find and tell those stories you are not suitably equipped for a career in television production.
And we are not just talking producers and researchers here. A good cameraman understands he is telling a story and need to get the relevant pictures to help tell that story. An editor has the job of putting the final structure of that story together but if the rest of the team – from sound and lighting to presenters and producer – have not done their job that editor is going to struggle. Everyone needs to understand what the final result is meant to be in order to do his or her job effectively. Do you know what the story is?
The Skillset survey suggests that many media students and journalists are not getting enough suitable training given the changing face of technology and the mass media. Employers in the media are complaining that the people they hire are lacking essential skills. I have long suspected too many media colleges are not providing the necessary education and this survey seems to support that suspicion. Of course there are good courses and not so good courses – and that is another survey and article altogether. (Would love to hear from some of those media studies course leaders…)
The survey says journalists are too often lacking in both the traditional skills – writing; telling stories; researching – and the modern skills – using the computer, video and the web. The traditional skills are as important as they’ve ever been but the message is that the media landscape is changing as a result of the web and changing technology, and we all need to learn how to marry the traditional with the new.
In his Forward to the report Kim Fletcher, Chairman of the National Council for the Training of Journalists, makes it clear that we cannot afford to ignore the revolution currently underway in the media:
“What do you do when the familiar world begins to change? Well, you can pull the duvet over your head and pretend it isn’t happening. That’s comforting at first, but when you don’t get involved, you shouldn’t be surprised to find yourself left behind. Or, taking a deep breath, you throw yourself into the action and have a hand in shaping the future. That’s surely the right course for all those involved in training the next generation of journalists.
The world of the media has certainly been moving at frightening pace and in scary ways. We no longer know where the money’s coming from. Deadlines aren’t clear any more. Those old distinctions between print and broadcast have broken down. Journalists may still call themselves newspaper reporters, but they travel with a video camera and a microphone alongside their notebook. Broadcasters write blogs in between the bulletins. Online reporters ask why you actually need a printer”.
The survey set out to discover what skills journalists need today and whether they were getting enough training to give them those skills.
It turns out that 71 per cent of employers report skills gaps among new entrant journalists. Television and radio companies and larger companies reported skills gaps slightly higher than the average. The areas more commonly reported in TV and radio as having skills gaps are apparently interviewing; radio presentation; public affairs; health and safety; and hazardous assignments (isn’t every TV job a potentially hazardous assignment?!).
The survey identified skills gaps in both the traditional and the new:
And as an interesting aside, it says that voice coaching is a particular skills gap within television and radio, while within the magazine sector, new skills such as user-generated content, podcasts and blogging feature strongly.
Essentially media employers need and want people who understand and are effective with the skills of working in and with the web alongside the usual journalistic skills.
Employers were asked if they were providing formal training for new entrants and of the television production companies who responded 29% said yes they were. However, I would query what those results really mean given most of this ‘training’ was ‘in-house support on the job by another member of staff’. Hmmm…
No doubt there are many inspirational managers out there taking time out of their busy, stressful jobs to train the newcomers and no doubt there are very many busy, stressed managers who reckon sending the runner to deal with an irate television contributor is ‘in-house training’!
One of the interesting parts of the survey included quotes from employers about what’s missing in many TV workers and journalists, including the tendency to take the easy option when getting a story – relying on PR handouts, for example. They want and need people who can ferret out new stories and then tell the story well. Can you do that? Not just surfing the net, cutting and pasting – really getting out, discovering new things and interesting people and broadcasting their story?
One executive says:
“Reporters expect things to land in their laps and they don’t have to work for it. It’s a job and not a vocation [to them] and there’s lots of attitude when anyone is expected to go the extra mile. Initiative in getting stories is long gone and seems never to return.”
The conclusion was that the basic skills of journalism and broadcasting remain critical and that key skills for new entrants would be:
• An ability to work across the media platforms (internet, broadcast, print., etc) “That is absolutely essential.”
• The ability to hold on to the traditional values of journalism while modernising around the new platforms;
• An open mind-set.
So what if you’ve never studied media or journalism, or what if you have but still lack these necessary skills? Well fear not – there are solutions:
A few years ago I was completely ignorant of the world of blogging, web sites, social networking and the rest of it. My learning curve on this site has been steep and fascinating and no-one taught me how to do it. I learnt along the way by doing it myself. And along the way I have finally come to understand the nature of this media revolution.
ITV spent large sums of money tying to educate senior managers like me on the ways of the web and how it impacted on our television business. Bless ‘em they even forked out £300 worth of iPod for each of us in the hope it would teach us oldies something about modern ways. After a whole weekend away (in very comfortable surroundings, thank you) I understood nothing and I am not convinced the bosses actually understood what they were trying to tell us! Sometimes the only way to learn is to immerse yourself in it.
So this is what I suggest – LEARN TO DO IT YOURSELF. Don’t sit around waiting for the call or the email, starting filling in your skills gaps. I’m happy to help. The more you learn and teach yourself the better equipped you will be to take advantage of the revolution that’s going on in our media.
The good news about this revolution – brought to us, of course, by the wonder of the world wide web – is that it gives the individual more creative freedom and a better chance of being part of a global media than ever – and I mean EVER -before. Exciting? You betcha! And you don’t necessarily have to be in a TV job to be a part of it.
Coming up over the next few weeks I’ll talk more on the revolution, how you can use it to your advantage and offer practical suggestions on how you can go about ‘doing it yourself’ – and hopefully giving yourself an advantage in the media workplace at the same time.
For now I suggest you go read that report. It will inform you. It will tell you what employers in the media want today. The press has gone to town on the revelation that media entrants aren’t getting enough suitable training. True but we’re not going to sit around waiting for someone to pick us up now are we? No we ain’t!
Here’s the link to the Skillset Report:
And the Guardian’s report on it:
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