Wick Communications

The career ladder

In Business on April 28, 2016 at 4:49 pm

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There is a really terrific Q&A on the Poynter site this week, and it deals with journalism careers and what employers want these days. (No, we don’t want to lose any of you, but we do want you to excel and excelling at Wick and becoming appealing to other news organizations look very similar in practice.)

You should read Benjamin Mullin’s piece. It’s a discussion with Mark Stencil, of the Duke Reporter’s Lab, about what it takes to get your foot in the door in a changing marketplace.

A couple of takeaways:

You don’t have to do everything. Many want ads these days look like a laundry list with every possible journalism and engineering talent required. So many of them say you have to be a writer, a visual storyteller, a coder, a marketing expert, a brander, a social media maven, a metrics analyst… Don’t believe it. Those kind of journalistic superheroes are pretty rare. The rest of us find jobs too. …

But that doesn’t mean you are free to be a humble writer and be satisfied with that. Stencil suggests a solid journalistic background and one other marketable skill. If you are a top-notch journalist who can and has made telling data visualization presentations, employers will want you. Learn a complementary skill.

It’s time to be brave. I don’t have much to add to what Stencil said about finding the time to learn new tricks. If we’re going to be successful, we have no choice. And as soon as we learn one new trick, it’s time to learn another. Here he is:

… We found that most organizations had the same complaints when it came to trying something new: We don’t have the time, we don’t have the budget and we don’t have the know-how.

And yet some newsrooms with the exact same challenges did it anyway. In most of those cases, a newsroom leader or group of leaders decided that experimenting and innovating were a priority, and they made the time and found the budget and sought the know-how. Typically they succeeded at it because they were willing to stop doing something else — to stop feeding the metaphorical goat, as one news executive put it to us.

In many cases that meant sacrificing certain kind of coverage to do something potentially bigger and more important. For example: fewer traffic accident and crime-of-the-day stories in order to develop in-depth, data-driven reporting on traffic issues and crime patterns.

That feels like a dereliction of duty to some news leaders. But in a competitive local media market, where you may have two or three other news outlets (a local paper, a couple of TV affiliates) all competing to cover the same crime of the day, maybe that’s a risk worth taking.

Amen.

Want to climb the career ladder? Put one foot in front of the other and try something new constantly.

Clay

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