Wanted: More multi-tasking journalists

Posted on June 16, 2006 
Filed Under Uncategorized

Steve Outing in his May 22nd Stop The Presses column answers the question of “How to Get Ahead in the New Media Newsroom, Circa 2006”

What does it take to advance your newspaper reporting or editing career? Well, the old stand-bys of talent and hard work still apply, and a bit of who-you-know thrown in can be helpful. But these days, there’s more to it.

Let’s add in a willingness and ability to add non-traditional job responsibilities to get onto the fast lane of career advancement. Start piling on the job responsibilities — especially those involving new media and cross-media — and you might be able to speed away from the crowd…

The New Requirements

What seems to be becoming the norm in newsrooms these days is that a growing group of reporters, photographers and editors are now working in jobs where there’s a wide variety of tasks to be done each day: feeding the newspaper’s Web site; writing for blogs and interacting with blog readers; gathering audio for the website and/or radio partners; recording video clips; participating in online chats and discussion forums … Oh, and writing for the newspaper’s print edition.

To stand out from the rest of the crowd and climb the corporate ladder, I’d contend that you need to take on some of those responsibilities. The journalists — young or old — who stick to the old definition of what a newspaper reporter or editor is about are the ones who will get passed over.

Outing cites The Palm Beach Post, Florida where it’s becoming the norm to cross back and forth between print, the Web, TV and radio.

Examples of Post news staff crossing media lines, include:

1.Frank Cerabino, metro columnist: Does two TV commentaries each week for the local Fox affiliate station, and produces interactive elements to his constantly updated blog, Bino’s Blogaroni. Right now he’s driving an SUV across the U.S. as part of a series, “Guzzlin’ Across America,” for which he’s updating his blog, calling in daily to one of the Post’s radio partners, shooting photos for the paper’s website, and shooting video for the TV partner.

2.Leslie Streeter: The paper’s “entertainment diva” also writes for her blog, plus appears once a week in a 5-minute feature segment on the Fox affiliate to talk about what’s happening around Palm Beach over the weekend, the latest analysis of American Idol, etc.

3.Greg Stepanich, assistant business editor: Not content to work just on business topics, he writes a popular classical-music blog for the Post’s website that includes sound bites, photos and interviews. He also writes and performs the music for PalmBeachPost.com’s weekly podcast, and is a regular book reviewer for the paper. He even wants the paper to start selling cell-phone ringtones from his music compositions. (Whew!)

4.John Lopinot, deputy photo editor: His recent project has been to get the news photography staff to carry audio recording gear, and encourage them to think about Web presentation on a daily basis. Lopinot leads by example, producing his own audio photo slideshows and video productions, plus writing and producing his own narrations for multimedia projects.

5. Rochelle Gilken, a day-side crime/police reporter: Typically feeds the Post website with short stories (Web feeds) several times per day, has a crime blog to keep fed with content (along with a second crime reporter working out of a Post regional bureau). Plus writes for the print-edition. Gilken carries cell phone and Blackberry, plus a digital tape recorder for recording audio for the website and the Post’s radio partners, plus a handheld police scanner. Gilken also writes a regular fantasy football column for the print edition (for which she’s paid) plus does a fantasy football blog (which is not a paid thing).

Outing also cites new-media consultant Peter M. Zollman who points out, the new media model resembles the old news wire service model.

An UPI veteran from the 1970s, Zollman said:

“Even back then there were multimedia reporters. I was one of them. I would frequently write a broadcast story first — short, punchy, conversational, timed in seconds — and then write for the newspaper wire — longer, narrative form or inverted pyramid, etc. Then I would do a ‘voicer’ or a ‘wrap’ for UPI Audio, a private-label radio network. Occasionally I appeared on television news programs, too, as an interviewer or guest panelist. Sounds a lot like what’s being expected of the reporters today.”

MORE.

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