Local Edition: Journalists, it's time to catch up

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When I first moved from a daily newspaper to an online news site, someone asked me how that would change my work.

Oh, it won’t, I said. It’s the same storytelling, just a different medium.

But it did. Of course it did. Because digital media isn’t just a separate medium. It requires a different process for producing news. It allows for many, many different ways of conveying news. And, of course, it's a different way of getting news.

These last few weeks, our conversation about the skills we need to stay in journalism has returned to a few big themes:

Basics matter.

Keeping up matters, too.

(You can see the strength of both in yesterday's Pulitzer winners and finalists. Local journalism had another good year.)

Here are a few ideas we’ve talked about here, some tips and some resources. Hang around until the end to see what we’ll be talking about next.

Don’t ignore the basics:

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Remember:

– Writing and reporting are still the foundation of what we do. There are so many ways to keep improving.

– Self-editing didn’t make it into our conversation yet, but it’s an essential skill for smaller, overworked newsrooms. Denise Ritter, assistant city editor of the Ashland (Ohio) Times-Gazette, shared these tips for self-editing:

    Proofread with a hard copy.

    Read it aloud.

    Try editing backwards.

    Polish up with tools from places like ACES and Poynter (thanks for the plug, Denise!)

– Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark often recommends reading great work as a way to learn writing skills. That’s true with great interviewing skills, too. Listen to different podcasters, read transcripts and find interviews you can mine for ideas.

Veterans don’t get a digital pass:

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Try:

– Ask a younger or more digitally fluent colleague for help. In my experience, they tend to view our profession as a team sport.

– Broaden how you get journalism yourself. If you’re still reading a paper newspaper, that’s great. You can also try following news organizations on Snapchat (start with The Washington Post). See how legacy outlets are pushing onto different platforms. Ask other people how and where they get news (and don’t freak out when they say Facebook).

– Apply for opportunities to up your skills. We have them here, but annual conferences, regional get-togethers and fellowships are a great way to do this, too.

Your newsroom’s business is your business:

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Understand:

– Your audience. What’s working? What’s not? Can you dig into your analytics to understand better?

– The rapidly changing landscape. Ken Doctor’s work is a great place to start.

– How other newsrooms are trying to make money. There are a lot of approaches right now.

If your newsroom isn’t helping you build new skills, you gotta do it for yourself:

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Maybe:
– Figure out who in your newsroom has mastered something and get them to teach the rest of you.

– Apply, apply, apply for opportunities outside the newsroom. This is a repeat, I know, but a worthwhile one.

– Get comfortable with failure. When you try new things, you won't master them immediately. Keep trying.


Next, we’re going to talk about what skills we no longer need to stay in journalism. What do you have to unlearn?

Thinking in column inches?

Waiting to publish until late afternoon?

Spelling "lede" instead of "lead?"

We’ll start this topic next week with two Philly journalists I’m really excited to talk with. Anna Orso writes for Billy Penn, and Alex Lewis is an independent radio producer.

See you next week! And in the meantime, talk to me! What do you need to unlearn to stay in journalism?

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