"Social media skills are vital” agree experts at digital seminar

Editors and journalists at the forefront of digital journalism discussed the importance of integrating digital journalism skills into training at the NCTJ Digital Journalism Seminar at Press Association in London.

Editors had asked the NCTJ to put more emphasis on social media as an integral part of training.  The seminar considered how digital journalism techniques for getting the story first and breaking the news are essential for all journalists. 

Chris Maguire, editor of the Chorley and Leyland Guardian, spoke about social media and the regional press. Maguire said: “Social media skills aren’t optional. They are a must. It has to be integrated into overall training.

“It is important to the regional press because we can’t be everywhere, but we can use social media. For newspapers to be relevant they have to be relevant to the lives of their audience. Social media gives you a bigger voice.”

This view was also reflected by the other speakers at the event. Fergus Bell, senior producer at Associated Press, who uses Twitter daily for his job, said: “Social media helps us to find and tell stories. It is real people in a digital space. If you tweet something it’s real. To ignore Facebook is to ignore stories”.

Although the speakers agreed social media is important in the newsroom, they stressed that tools such as Facebook and Twitter are not a substitute for the essential journalism skills such as shorthand, law and the ability to meet and connect with people.

Chris added: “Social media can find stories. It can’t write them.”

The other speakers at the event, which was chaired by Andrew Hawken, head of digital media at Sky News, were: Stefan Stern, director of strategy, Edelman and former columnist for the Financial Times; Ian Reeves, director of learning and teaching, University of Kent; Alan Marshall, group managing editor, The Press Association; and Laura Oliver, community co-ordinator, news, Guardian online.

Picture: Andrew Hawken, head of digital media, Sky News, chairing the seminar.