career talk

Yes, even in 2013! People still think writing is all you need to know to be a journalist (mini-rant)


(update: added link to Asakawa’s article)

Gil Asakawa in Quill Magazine highlights an incident that left me floored this morning:

I was appalled recently to hear a city editor from one of the top daily newspapers in the country tell a roomful of journalism students that they shouldn’t worry about learning multimedia or any digital skills, and that journalism to him was all about one thing: writing.

In fact, this well-known and well-regarded veteran editor told the students that “backpack journalism” is just “bullshit.” The only skill journalists need, he insisted, is to be a great writer.

Thankfully, Asakawa confronted this city editor and got him to concede some other working journalists were actually “journalists.” Asakawa thought this city editor was “overstating his point to make an impression on the young minds in the room.” Even if so, what a horrible impression to make.

The fact that this attitude still exists in 2013 is inexcusable.

A beginning journalist graduating today had better damned well know how to do more than just write. At the very least, they will be asked to take photographs, record audio of interviews and use “The Twitter.”

I’ve heard similar propositions (“You just need to know how to write”) frequently over the last 12 years of advising, and they were wrong in 2001, and they are even more wrong in 2013. Given the state of the news industry, such advice to a young journalist is, to use Patrick Thornton’s phrase on Twitter: “A dereliction of duty.”

Instead of rehashing the exact reasons such an attitude is toxic to beginning journalists, I’m going to link to something I wrote in 2007, and reblogged in 2010, and apparently am going to have to keep reblogging until certain journalistic dinosaurs retire or get laid off.

Last words of a journalist: Not my job.

One sentence I will reprint from that article: The most versatile journalist has the most job security.