Journalism is changing. There is no way around it. People are getting their news through social media links showing up their newsfeed more often than the homepage of The Washington Post. Video is consumed more than words and if you don’t get the story, sometimes you have to give someone else credit rather than re-report it.
Mike Royko may be rolling in his grave, but the most important job as a reporter is to disseminate information and put it into context. As much as I love the flourishes of Gay Talese and Buzz Bissinger, they are a luxury these days.
So here are four tips on how to get an editor’s attention when applying for a reporting job.
- Learn how to use Facebook and Twitter well. This is the way people get their news. If you know how to promote your work, crowdsource and talk with the community you cover through social media then an editor will take a second look at your resume no matter how traditional your background.
- Learn to shoot and edit video. A 45-second video will always get more hits on a website than a flawlessly written, 1,500-word article. It’s a shame, but it’s true. So take out your iPhone when covering an event and shoot some interesting footage. If you’re adventurous, take a class in Final Cut and learn how to edit video as well. It’s not difficult to get up a short, simple video to go along with a story and it will drive traffic to that story.
- Embrace aggregation. Sometimes, no matter how good you are, you miss a story. It happens. But instead of re-reporting it like the old days, aggregate the information and give credit to the source. Always give credit to the source. Then, beef up the aggregation with some context. Take those basic facts from the other story and show people why they’re important.
- Don’t downplay your traditional journalism skills. Those skills are important. Even if you are a social media maven who gets tons of web traffic, your work will be useless if you can’t report and write and if you don’t have great news judgment. Traditional newsrooms are changing, but the ethics of reporting and the values of the old guard should never be forgotten.