The Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media 2014” has justifiably occasioned scads of discussion, although somewhat less hand wringing than in the past.
As the title of one part of the study — The Growth in Digital Reporting — implies, replacing concern about the bleeding of journalist jobs is increasing optimism that the growth of digital news ventures is creating and will spawn new opportunities for reporters. Of 468 digital outlets tracked by Pew, they “have produced almost 5,000 full-time editorial jobs” in the past decade.
The rub is that digital reporting, even the writing part of the job, requires skills that aren’t native to most, or at least many, journalists:
The training of traditional journalism is not perfectly suited to what digital audiences are looking to read.” (Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney)
Those digital storytelling skills include not just data visualization but also mastering the interplay between visuals and words, interpreting emotional triggers and manoeuvring ‘readers’ from emotion to understanding and trust. These are the skills of the storyteller, people who understand what Joseph Campbell (and my esteemed U.S. colleague Gary Goldhammer) calls the Hero’s Journey of narrative infrastructure. They are the skills needed not only in digital reporting but also in the ‘new’ public relations
So where do we find these people?
Frankly, I don’t have an answer. Among the best recent hires I have played a role in at my agency one came out of NYU’s photography program (now a bit of a data nerd) and another with a background in comparative religions who has become a creative digital strategy wizard.
Maybe digital news ventures and communications agencies will have to look to creative writing programs to find people who get the concept of ‘story arc’, drama, protagonist and antagonist, and transformative story experiences.
Although, I did hear today that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is cutting 657 jobs.
Originally published by our senior digital strategist Boyd Neil on his personal website on April 10, 2014.