Great read from Clay Shirky, a new media thinker, about the implosion on newspaper journalism. Here’s the three main tips, but you should read the whole post:
The first piece of advice is the most widely discussed in journalism circles — get good with numbers. The old ‘story accompanied by a chart’ was merely data next to journalism; increasingly, the data is the journalism. Nate Silver has changed our sense of political prediction. ProPublica has tied databases to storytelling better than anyone in the country. Homicide Watch can report more murders (all of them, in fact), using fewer people, than the Washington Post. Learning to code is the gold standard, but even taking an online class in statistics and getting good at Google spreadsheets will help. Anything you can do to make yourself more familiar with finding, understanding, and presenting data will set you apart from people you’ll be competing with, whether to keep your current job or get a new one.
Second, learn to use social media tools to find stories and sources. Social media was first absorbed as a marketing tool, but a medium that allows direct access to the public is also a journalistic one. Examples small and large, from photos of a plane landing in the Hudson River to the Guardian’s crowd-sourced analysis of hundreds of thousands of Parliamentary expense reports, rely on a more permeable relationship between the newsroom and the outside world. Practice reading conversations on Facebook and looking at photos on Instagram to look for story ideas; understand how a respectful request for assistance on Twitter or WeChat can bring out key sources or armies of volunteers.
Third, journalism is becoming more of a team sport. Integrated text and visuals, databases the readers can query and annotate themselves, group liveblogging of breaking news — all this requires collaboration far more engaged than the old ‘one story, one byline’ model. Volunteer for (or propose) anything that involves deeper teamwork than you’re used to, and anything that involves experimenting with new tools or techniques. (The irony, of course, is that more news organizations prize teamwork, but still hire individuals. For your next job, you may need to convince your future bosses that you are valuable all by your lonesome, but that part of that value is working well on a team.)
Good advice for today’s journalists and the ones learning the trade in college.