How to Develop Skills for Work in TV

Following an article about the skills required by employers in the media today, Chris Dodd left a comment to tell us about the value of crowdsourcing and how he was using it to develop his journalism skills. Crowdsourcing – what the heck is that, I asked? Well here I am advocating learning new skills and especially those to be found online (we are part of the media revolution remember!) so obviously I asked Chris to share his wisdom. Having learnt relevant skills Chris has even managed to do those clever hyper links things!  

Anyway, here he is – Chris Dodd on how you can develop and build your skills to make you even more employable in the TV work place:

As reported recently on this site and on The Guardian there is an increasing shortage of skills and training within the creative industries. A report published by Skillset states that 33% of surveyed production companies are currently experiencing a skills gap in their workforce.

While the results of the Skillset survey (PDF) may seem gloomy for the future of the industry, it could be great news for people who are currently trying to get their first media job. New entrants often have a greater acceptance and knowledge of new technologies, and by using and developing their skills in these technologies they stand to increase their employablilty within the media industries.

At the heart of this issue is they way the media industry have relied on outdated recruitment techniques. We’ve all been told countless times that getting your foot in the door is about ‘who you know, not what you know’. Thankfully the industry itself is starting to recognise that their recruitment methods are counter productive. Recent panel discussions organised by 4Talent and the Royal Television Society have sought to explore how the industry can attract and recruit the best talent.

But how can you build and develop skills?

Knowledge of journalism is vital for anyone looking to work in the media, it encompasses a wide skill set that includes research, interviews, writing and perhaps the most important of all story telling. These are exactly the same skills that go into producing every single television program, so showing you have these skills could help you when looking for your big break.

There are many ways in which you can pick up on journalism skills. There are a number of organisations which offer journalism training. While these will fast track you through the basics these courses can be quite expensive, especially when you consider the wealth of free resources available online.

The BBC College of Journalism, for example, has numerous resources available for free through their website, including sections on writing and web skills. There are also vast numbers of tutorials and guides available through blogs and YouTube.

One project I am involved in is called Help Me Investigate (HMI) which is a journalism tool based around the principles of crowdsourcing. HMI is effectively a network of journalists, journalism students, communities, bloggers and media producers who work together to share resources, knowledge and skills to investigate stories that are in the public interest.

As a resource HMI is especially relevant to anyone who’s looking to get into factual or documentary production, as it will help you to learn and develop the skills needed to really get under the skin of a subject. Investigative journalism is a regular feature on TV schedules and is one of the core components of the long running documentary strands Panorama and Dispatches.

Since it’s initial launch in 2009 HMI has helped to uncover: A £2.2 million overspend on Birmingham City Council’s website; false claims by publishers of a free newspaper; the worst places for parking fines; the real average cost of weddingslegal issues surrounding recording council meetingspolice claims of sabotage against Climate Camp protestershow much higher education costs the taxpayerwho is responsible for an advertising screendoes scrapping speed cameras save money? And varying availability of hormonal contraceptive on the NHS. (you can find out more on the HMI Blog)

HMI has recently been relaunched after some fine tuning and is currently focusing in on three core topics: WelfareEducation and Health. Getting involved is simple, I would suggest you start by signing up to help others.

Learning journalism skills can help you to work on your own projects, which will show future employers that you have the skills and talent necessary to work in the media industry. I’d urge you to watch Rough sleeping in London – an investigative documentary made Kristina Khoo. Kristina is a great example of someone using their talent, skills and experience to showcase what they can do. I’d also recommend that you read these hints and tips on how Kristina made her film: (Part 1 / Part 2).

As a freelancer you are effectively your own business, it’s crucial that you exploit any gaps in the market to ensure that producers NEED you on their projects, picking up new skills could be the key to your first media job. Get pro-active, get involved with things, build up your CV anyway that you can, the industry is crying out for skills – make sure you have them.


Thank you, Chris, and very well said.

And here is the article that kicked off this discussion: Do you have the skills to work in TV? (Chris taught me how to do that!!)




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