You get a data set, or a report with facts and figures or some other collection of information structured in some way. How do you make sense of it?
One of the first questions I ask younger reporters when I meet them is which is their first love: the reporting or the writing. Storytelling, as the form is euphemistically categorized, is very old. The ways we report and write, too, have old origins, but their forms adapt with the times. They change constantly. I bet your industry has a similar kind of split, subtly different pathways to the professional work.
If a journalist covers her beat well enough, one of the more frequent challenges she’ll face is negotiating when to report something, if a source is requesting an embargo.
That was one of the main points during a session I helped lead during the annual conference of the National Lesbian Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) about finding and reporting a niche.
What a simple and common reaction: get angry at the one telling you the story.
The true job of news gatherers is to reflect the communities they serve. Media is mirror. We can and should have a responsibility in pushing for a truer understanding and taking responsibility in making those communities better (however we define better) but we still must be representative of those whom we serve.
You are our source material. So you have more to do with our editorial mix than you might realize.
You might confuse journalism with some reported article or radio report or TV segment. That’s because these are among the most common units that make up the process of deploying journalism.
But when pressed to define journalism, as many do for the trade and the practitioners, it’s important to recognize that even the process of providing news and information to a community might not be goal enough. And there are lots more ways to deploy journalism.
You won’t find a reporter who questions the importance of accuracy. It’s chief among the journalistic creeds.
Many, too, would understand the importance of relevancy to the craft — choosing to share what fits their publication’s audience and voice (though it takes some savvy to make those decisions consistently).
But what remains still foreign, even controversial, is the idea that reporting should be done with productivity in mind. A journalist should be able to say why they’re pursuing a story: what goals will be reached because of it?
There are volumes already written on the broad scope of reporting and publishing breaking news, so there’s no need to repeat that. However, far too little has been discussed about the peculiarities of doing that work within a narrow community.
Crime, crashes and tragedies impact greatly victims but for many reporters, the messaging of this news is going to a far broader audience. For community journalists working a beat, breaking news has slightly different dynamics — despite the overall smaller audience, often more people will be far more emotionally invested in the outcome. So you better learn how to do it right.
Profit. That’s where the experimentation and funding for long-term projects came from.
As the near monopoly on the distribution of information that powered the advertising business that kept newsrooms well-stocked has faded, so too has the profitability of the companies that back them. And it has coincided with tightened budgets and, therefore, fewer commercially viable journalism products.
I’m a fan of the Online News Association‘s annual conference. I’ve been before and went again in September to Denver, getting the chance to speak again too.
My favorite part of the conference is the chance to catch up with peers and meet new friends, largely to check in on whether I think my organization is still sharp. As a local chapter organizer for ONA, I got the added treat this year of networking with other local organizers too. But helpfully I do often find a handful of traditional conference sessions on topics I’m thinking about and learn some things, particularly tactical tips and tricks. I wanted to share some of what I learned.
Efforts abound nationally to pin down just how many full-time people are in the business of reporting, editing, visualizing and otherwise sharing news in a professional journalism setting. This is a local one.
But I wanted to use my hometown of Philadelphia to get a sense of what that hiring mix looks like. So I sent a whole lot of emails out to friends, colleagues and peers. Below I share what I found.