Multiskilling is crucial in today’s newsrooms, and it’s more a mindset than a set of skills, writes Tim Young.
In the golden age of media, when newsrooms were bursting with cash and reporter jobs were plentiful, there was little need for anyone to venture outside their comfort zones.
Reporters wrote copy. Sub-editors would proof and edit. Photographers took pictures. Designers designed. Cartoonists cartooned. And everyone played on their own patch.
As I went through journalism school in 2006 it struck me to be a fairly boring state of affairs. Why couldn’t I take a photograph to accompany a written piece? Why shouldn’t I shoot video to run online as well?
"In the golden age of media...everyone played on their own patch."
Arriving at The Age newspaper as a Video Journalist the following year, I was already aware of the pressures facing the newsroom. The slash and burn of multiple redundancy rounds soon followed, decimating the ranks of journalists and the morale of those who remained.
Interestingly, the shrinking of newsrooms coincided with an explosion of new tools available on the internet. Video leapt from television to the web. Interactivity brought readers closer, as did social media. Data visualisations and infographics helped explain complex stories.
Despite this, newsrooms like The Age were intensely hostile to ‘multi-skilling’ as recently as a decade ago. The ‘silos’ were many, and they were tall and impenetrable.
When I took a very good story to The Age’s editor back in the day, the response was essentially ‘who is this video person trying to write for my paper?’
The quality of my story didn’t matter. I was knocked back because I came from the wrong silo. This made no sense to me.
The story eventually did get a run, and it became the first time in Fairfax history one person wrote a piece for print, took the accompanying photos and shot and edited a video for online. This was 2009.
"It became the first time in Fairfax history one person wrote a piece for print, took the accompanying photos and shot and edited a video for online. This was 2009."
Fast forward to 2019 and this kind of ‘wide open’ news gathering is commonplace, and employers are essentially demanding it from their new hires.
In the end, all journalism students want jobs. And in a market as competitive as ours, it’s crucial to stand out in some way.
Being a good writer will always be a foundational skill in journalism, but it’s just not enough by itself to get that all-important first gig.
Imagine an employer tossing up between two candidates for a job. One has a folio full of great writing, the other has one filled with good writing, some video production and podcasts. Who would you hire?
"Keeping your antennae finely tuned to what's new, what's possible and finding new ways to make things happen is an absolutely core skill in the internet age."
The great thing is it doesn’t matter what area you attack, so long as you choose something. It’ll make you more employable and, more importantly, it makes your work more fun.
And the trick is that it doesn’t necessarily matter how good you are at video or photography or audio production or data visualisation. Employers are looking for people who can think outside the box, who have a track record of taking on new skills and a diverse portfolio of published content.
Keeping your antennae finely tuned to what’s new, what’s possible and finding ways to make things happen is an absolutely core skill in the internet age. It’s a way of thinking rather than a specific set of skills.
And it’s why there’s never been a more exciting time to be a journalist.
"There's never been a more exciting time to be a journalist."
Journalism at Macleay College
Students become working journalists from the first day they step into Macleay. They work on real stories in a real newsroom across all media platforms.
Journalism students are taught by industry experts that are up to date with the latest trends and are well connected in the industry.
Curious to know more about the Journalism programs at Macleay? Check out the