RENO, NEVADA- Today there is a plethora of different media platforms. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, the list is endless. In this new age of online media, making oneself marketable as a journalist requires a breadth of knowledge many do not yet possess.
But some do.
Yvonne Beasley, senior producer and reporter at the Reno Gazette Journal, works as a content manager on many media platforms. In an interview at the Reynolds School of Journalism, she emphasized which skills today’s journalists need.
Many of these skills are technology related. Understanding content management systems, fixing computers, topic specialization and entirely producing content all need to be mastered.
“You get a different audience with each content management system. Each of them turns out to be necessary, so they’re all my favorite,” Beasley said. Point being, it does not matter which media platforms journalists like to use, they need to know all sites in order to reach today’s audiences. Understanding these different sites helps to attract different groups of readers.
This is not the only computer knowledge journalists need. Being able to troubleshoot computer problems is necessary for today’s journalists. When Beasley was a young journalist, she was “always the person who could fix the computers in the newsroom.” Doing so allowed her to develop a competitive edge over those who did not have computer knowledge. As the RGJ’s first online editor in the early 2000’s, Beasley has seen this fact time-tested: “Tech has become more and more both what we’re covering and what we’re fiddling with all day. People who didn’t keep up with the technology or weren’t interested in it have gone on to other things but not stayed in journalism.”
However, being a relevant journalist requires more than just tech skills.
“We’d like a journalist who can come in and say, ‘I can get you the people who care about x and here’s how I’m going to do it.’” Essentially, journalism specialization is critical to be hired today. Being a journalist with extensive business knowledge, for example, would give that journalist an advantage over others with more general journalism skills. As Donica Mensing, a University of Nevada, Reno associate professor stated, “niche” journalism is the direction that the field is taking today.
But wait, more is needed to make it in the media industry.
“You make your whole content package yourself,” Beasley said. A journalist needs to know how to take the story from its infancy all the way through publication. The entire production process needs to be mastered by every journalist. Beasley said, “The writers only wrote, the photographers only took photos, and now we’re at the point where everybody does everything.” Not only do journalists have to be proficient in content management and distribution, they need to know how to create and distribute the content in the first place. In order to do this, filming, recording and editing skills are all required.
While this may sound like an impossible list of skills to master, it can be done, as people like Beasley prove every day. Beasley recommends that students apply for internships. Once students show businesses the devices and techniques they know, they are more likely to get the positions they want as interns. Internships are time-consuming, but usually pay off. Journalism interns not only get to apply the skills they learn in class, they learn new skills that can only be acquired in the real world. As the University of California, Davis Internship and Career Center explains, internships give you a competitive edge in the job market.
While it may be difficult in today’s economy to find the perfect job, young journalists who acquire these skills will likely find themselves ahead of the pack when applying for journalism-related jobs.