Why train to be a journalist? It’s a reasonable question as we read about the many apparent crises in the media. But the answer is simple. We are living in the information age – and journalists are information professionals whose skills are increasingly needed.
In the wake of the Fake News crisis, which has created a flight to quality journalism based upon facts and not fiction, the journalistic skills of gathering, verifying, assessing and analysing information, skills in fashioning a compelling story and in engaging the public are in higher demand than ever.
Of course those skills, and the tools a journalist uses, are changing rapidly with new technology. Today, understanding the implications of a new phone release or major software update is just as important as knowing to ask “Who, What, Where, When and Why”.
Today’s journalists need to understand how to use and visualise data and how to tell video stories at 20 minutes for documentary, 2 minutes for a news programme or 20 seconds for Instagram.
Journalism is no longer about telling the public what you think they need to know. It’s now a collaborative exercise, where journalists need to manage the relationship between the news consumer and social media. Underpinning all this, the core skills remain essential. Students need a thorough grounding in media law, public administration, media ethics, interviewing and reporting skills, tight writing and editing.
For many media organisations over half of their audience now access the news using a mobile device. This has created a new type of multi-platform journalist – trained to use a mobile first strategy to deliver their content and build their audience. And where once there were just a few large media organisations now, in some sense, every company is a media company looking at how to engage the public with information and stories.
None of this is easy. It takes skill, judgement, critical awareness, and an ever wider range of technical abilities. Which is why good training is essential.
Today’s journalism courses have to develop as swiftly as the industry they serve.
The best place digital and social media at the heart of what they do, embrace data journalism, multi-platform publishing and are closely tied into industry with guest speakers, work placements and collaborations to ensure they are relevant to the rapidly changing requirements of employers.
They also innovate across other disciplines. That’s why at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture we have launched courses with other departments; an MBA in Media Management with Cardiff Business School or an MSc in Computational and Data Journalism with the School of Computer Science and Informatics. And we have developed specialist modules in Business, Politics, Sport, Data, Lifestyle and Consumer journalism to ensure students leave with a level of expertise in at least one key area. Our experience shows this makes a difference to employability – and supports our excellent record of post graduates getting a job within six months of leaving.
Today’s journalism graduates also have to understand how and why news and media are changing. Case studies and direct access to media leaders provides insight into what’s driving the revolution the media is currently experiencing.
Modern journalism is now driven by cutting-edge technology, it embraces entrepreneurialism and is full of opportunity. We can’t say what roles or careers will be like in ten years time. But for those with commitment and self-motivation, undaunted by competition or the need for hard work, and crucially with a good foundation of training, journalism skills can take them a long way.