Thursday, May 10, 2007

Can journalists multitask?

Andy Dickinson suggests that there's a belief out there that journalists can't multi-task. There seems to be a lot of resistance from print reporters asked to do podcasts, take pictures, produce video, or write a blog. Same goes for radio producers, camera operators, and photographers.

But as more and more people are going online to get their news, static text on a page isn't doing it. This isn't to say that newspapers have to become television studios or vice versa. But multimedia is important. And it doesn't always make sense to send a reporter, photographer, and audio producer out on a single story.

So why hasn't every journalist learned to juggle the newest tools of the trade? Simple, because they're too busy telling stories. Or at least, that's what they tell themselves. Learning new skills is sadly often not at the top of the list when you're always on deadline.

The pressures of having to get a story in on time on a regular basis make journalists think in terms of what they know. If you're a print journalist you know how to write a story and if the boss wants to put it on the web, so be it. But blogging about it, or restructuring it so that it flows better in a feed reader, that takes time. So you resist.

If you're a radio reporter, sure you can hand in a written transcript of the story, or put a podcast up on the website. But carrying a camera around to take pictures, well that'll just weigh down your kit.

It's not necessarily the journalists, the editors, or the publications that limit reporters ability to move into new media. It's all of the above.

A colleague of mine is a photographer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He's been asked to start carrying around a digital voice recorder and a microphone to do audio pieces for the paper's website. He's actually excited about this, and asked me for tips on producing radio. It was pretty refreshing to see someone interested in taking on new tasks in an effort to tell the story in a more complete way.

3 comments:

Andy said...

I can’t disagree with any of that Brad.

Im not saying that it is an expectation of a journalist that they have to do all of these things, just that they can.

When I hear a VJ saying that they are the only ones who can do this well or a print journo saying they are the only ones who can do that. It makes me fume. It suggests that because a person isn't a VJ or a PJ they can’t. It’s just not true.

It’s one thing to recognise that you are too busy to ‘do’ everything - thats a real and difficult problem - but it isn’t made any easier when some idiot tells you that, even if you wanted to, you can’t.

Brad Linder said...

Trust me, I understand. I worked at a radio station where union rules stated that only an engineer could send audio out of the building or bring it in. That made plenty of sense when we were using complicated equipment to transmit audio to the network. But when it became as simple as clicking the "send" button on an email or FTP site, we still needed to get an engineer to press that button for us.

There are plenty of people willing to tell reporters what their job is.

Andy said...

I can’t disagree with any of that Brad.

Im not saying that it is an expectation of a journalist that they have to do all of these things, just that they can.

When I hear a VJ saying that they are the only ones who can do this well or a print journo saying they are the only ones who can do that. It makes me fume. It suggests that because a person isn't a VJ or a PJ they can’t. It’s just not true.

It’s one thing to recognise that you are too busy to ‘do’ everything - thats a real and difficult problem - but it isn’t made any easier when some idiot tells you that, even if you wanted to, you can’t.

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