Friday, November 18, 2005

Learn to survive

For many journalists, time is running out.
Even some of the more talented people in newsrooms have become deadweight. A lack of new-media skills and an unwillingness to change work habits and writing style to fit the era of conversational editorial have turned former assets into liabilities.
Our industry is changing at a dramatic pace. But in every newsroom I know, there are still people longing for the past. They are angry. They are argumentative. And they are becoming unemployable.

Certainly I'm not alone in this belief. Take a look at what Jeffrey Klein, who runs 101communications, said in Folio magazine. "At our company, when we consider editors for promotion, we select those who live and breathe the Internet ...What I call 'legacy editors,' those who still think print is the only worthy endeavor, are quickly becoming dinosaurs, who we gladly let go to work for our competitors."
Just a few months ago, I was still urging publishers to be patient. I suggested that while all new hires should be journalists with multimedia skills, companies should offer more training in new media for existing staff.
But I don't say that anymore.
At this point, I don't think someone can work in journalism without an understanding of at least the basics of interactive, conversational storytelling. And at this point, you can't blame the boss for not teaching these things. The difficult truth is that people who can't insert a hyperlink, who won't read a blog, who don't know how to work with Photoshop and can't upload a video file just aren't worth having around anymore.

Look: if one of these "legacy" editors is in your newsroom and you would like to protect them from the inevitable layoff, then do something to help them ... and do it quickly.
One place to start is with the University of Maryland's J-learning program. It's a free program that provides entry-level training in new media. Urge your "legacy" friend to give it a try.
Or try to convince your friend to attend a continuing-education course for journalists. Community colleges offer loads of programs. Or if they live in a major city, they can attend one of the dozens of courses offered by Mediabistro. In fact, I may be at this session on multimedia reporting next month, because I like some of the work done by the teacher, Erik Olsen.

And if you're looking for something to help convince your friend that the world really has changed -- that a whole new generation is coming that wants his job -- tell him to take a look at this special report from CNET on the "millennials," the group of tech-savvy kids enamored of remixing and instant messaging.

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