Add statistics/data to your long list of journalism skills

Former deskmate Katelyn Polantz clued me in today to a story posted on Medium by Clay Shirky which cites changes at the Roanoke Times as another example of the decline of print media.

Shirky talks about the dearth of training at newspapers (not always true——in my experience there were plenty of webinars and training in social media, but few sessions on other topics or refreshers on journalism fundamentals) and encourages young reporters to build their skills, especially when it comes to working with data, social media and other journalists as parts of a team.

My newspaper experience sits at just over 11 years. That’s a cup of coffee compared to lifers who’ve bled ink for decades. Still, I learned a few things from the rapidly changing industry during my stint.

Despite the decline in the newspaper industry, I still believe there’s a future for journalists. Last year I spoke to the staff of Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Times during its fall bootcamp.

I told them they should try to build as many of the following skills as possible: Report, interview, use the Freedom of Information Act, shoot photos, edit photos, shoot video, edit video, write code and speak Spanish. From Shirky’s essay, add data work and statistics to the list.

If you’re competent at all of those things, you can find a journalism job. If you’re really good at two or more and competent at the rest, it may be a job you like as well.