I often ask editors and executives at news companies what kind of people they’re looking to hire. These two answers I get a lot.
The first: “Know any developers who want to work in news?” (No, sorry.) The second is a little more complicated. The conversation goes something like this:
“You know what I need?” person who hires journalists will say. “I need people who can look at the news and information situation they are handed, look at what we know about our users and how they behave, look at what we say and believe about our brand, look at all the digital tools we have now… and just make good decisions.” This one is photos and captions, that one is a timeline and a 1,500-word backgrounder. This is a video explainer with some animation, that is a chart with a graceful introduction. Let’s live blog it. “Audio clip with a good headline.” Quick commentary piece that makes one point.
“And if they can make a lot of these things themselves, they’re hired.”
Me to person who hires journalists: “I hear this from editors a lot: First figure out what the story is. Then decide what combination of media best tells the story.”
Person who hires journalists: “But maybe it’s not a story. Maybe it’s an interactive where you can look up the data on your neighborhood. That’s not ‘story.’ I need people who can make good decisions without tilting it toward the forms they learned on, or the skills they identify themselves with. Some very good editors can’t do that. Some very good writers can’t do that. Anyway, that’s what I need.”
Right. What’s the name for that talent?
UPDATE: Michele McLellan builds on this post with some observations of her own about the same problem. “True digital expertise takes much more than multimedia skills.”