4 career tips for journalists in the digital age
If you have been following the journalism, content and media space in Singapore (and around the world) you’d know the industry is in a huge state of transformation. While traditional journalism still holds merit, the sector is increasingly becoming digital-first, meaning journalists and content creators must possess a wealth a varying digital skills to keep up.
In August 2017, Mediacorp announced it entered into an agreement with Singapore Press Holdings to buy its minority shareholdings in its entertainment and newspaper business - including the long-running and popular TODAY newspaper. The newspaper will run its last print edition at the end of September 2017 as it moves towards a “fully digital future”.
As more consumers want their news on the go, newsrooms have to change how they operate - and journalists have to keep up.
So, how can you ensure your skills would fly in today’s digital newsroom? Here’s what you need to know to be a successful journalist in the digital age of media.
1. Firstly, many core skills stay the same
Although the pace of change we have seen in journalism over the past five or 10 years is incredible, many of the core skills you need to write fair and balanced news remains the same - regardless of the medium it’s being published on. Digital-age journalists still need to have impeccable spelling, grammar and writing skills. They have to be able to digest information and pinpoint news angles in large sums of data. They require interpersonal skills to interview and draw information out of people, to get to the crux of an issue and find acceptable answers for their readers. They must remain fair, balanced and completely unbiased in their approach.
None of this has changed - in fact, some would argue it’s more important than ever given the speed at which information (false or true) can spread. But what has changed is how this information is presented and showcased to targeted audiences - and how media conglomerates measure the success of this.
2. New media and social media are par for the course
If your university or college isn’t teaching you new media skills (and some aren’t), there’s no reason you can’t teach yourself. Web design, social media, video - these are all huge aspects of a modern journalist’s day-to-day. In fact, some journalists are expected to be able to write a story for print, produce 3-5 tweets about the same article, and script, produce and post a relevant video to the outlets Facebook page about it all in the same day. You’ve got to be a jack of all trades!
Of course, you’re not going to able to become an expert in everything all at once - there’s too much to know! But you can start by playing around with video editing software that comes on your computer or phone, such as iMovie, and then expand into skills like understanding sound recording, editing, creating slideshows, creating landing pages for content, etc. It’s all relevant - and the more you can do, the better.
3. Build and maintain a solid online persona
Today’s journalists aren’t hacks who sit namelessly behind their computers - they are social media stars, creating professional names for themselves via a strong online presence. It’s about self-marketing and building a public persona that your audience can get behind and respect.
Beyond having a well-organised digital portfolio of your work, work to maintain an active social presence. As a budding journalist, you can use this strategy to get in touch with editors and reporters - but be careful to keep your professionalism intact. Remain completely unbiased in your digital communications if you want to be taken seriously. Utilise platforms that work for you, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but also consider keeping a blog to boost your cred. It’s a good way to practice your writing as well as amplify your capabilities.
4. Get experience
The best way to become the best journalist is by doing. All the theory in the world won’t make you an expert in storytelling - you need to live it. If you’re serious about becoming a modern-day journalist, work hard to put yourself out there. Offer your time as a freelancer or an intern. You might get paid for it, or you might not (although, you should!), but the sector is competitive, so do what you have to do to get noticed.
Chances are your school places students into internships, so ensure you’re on top of this. If not, start pulling together a CV and getting it out to relevant newsrooms. The more placements you do, the better - you want to show you have well-rounded experience in print, online, broadcast, social media, photojournalism, blogging, production assistance, copy editing, multimedia, design and more!