Reporters need to be multi-skilled in multimedia

“We need to be Jack of all trades and we have to do a job that would have been done by multiple people five years ago”, according to Alex Evans, multimedia reporter, Sheffield Star.

Alex made the comments during a session on digital skills at the Journalism Skills Conference in Sheffield on Thursday, 27 November.

David Holmes, lecturer in journalism studies, University of Sheffield and chair of the session agreed, saying that the changing pace of digital journalism combined with staff cuts across the industry means that reporters need to be everything in one.

There were opposing opinions in the panel on whether the role of a reporter had changed significantly in an increasingly digital world.

Alex said: “There are times when I feel like I’m being judged by my performance on social media and our website – there’s been a shift in the goal posts.”

While David Marsh, producation editor, The Guardian and editor, Guardian Style Guide and Mind Your Language blog said: “If you are going to be a reporter you still need skills that have always been needed by journalists such as curiosity, being able to find a story and being able to communicate it.

“The difference between how it was in the past and is now is that you have to tweet, write a quick 200 to 300 word story for the website and potentially make a video package. The reporting skills needed are not that different but the way you use them has changed.”

Each of the panel members agreed that reporters needed to be trained with a multimedia skillset to be attractive to employers.

There was also agreement across the board that reporters should be able to use social media responsibly when sourcing stories to be able to differentiate truth.

Alison Gow, digital innovation editor, Trinity Mirror, emphasised four points that would make reporters stand out from the crowd: engagement in social media; an ability to produce multimedia content; ideas on data and analytic journalism and crucially the use of search engine optimisation.

She said she would like to see more training in data journalism as people with these skills currently have an increasing number of opportunities.

When asked whether he felt pressure when juggling shorthand, soundbites, tweets and video packages, Alex said that part of the job was being able to prioritise.

He added: “You go into journalism because you relish the challenge and are motivated by it. If you are not motivated by it then maybe it isn’t for you.”