Thursday, 28 February 2008

What is a digital journalist? Towards a DJ manifesto

Bizarrely (to those of us focussed on online development, anyway) we often find that new journalists join us with much the same bias towards print journalism as many of the "old school".

It led a gang of us to wonder whether when recruiting new talent we should start advertising all journalist roles as "digital journalists". Although most people work across print and online here, the "digital" prefix might help to shift perceptions for new recruits and, indeed, for recruiters.

That led us naturally to suppose we had better start writing down ideas about what a digital journalist is and does (or at least will be and will do).

Clearly "digital" need not alter everything involved in journalism - news values and skills are arguably mostly untouched (truth, the ability to tell a story, interviewing skills and so on).

But I've been dwelling on how a digital journalist might reasonably be distinguished from a traditional journalist.

So here - without further ado - is my first draft Digital Journalism Manifesto:

  • the digital journalist can distinguish which elements of a story are best told through which media - words, pictures, video, audio, charts
  • the digital beat-journalist participates in his or her beat community through forums, blogs, microblogging etc.
  • the digital journalist uses tools such as RSS feeds to monitor emerging news
  • the digital journalist may also use tools such as RSS feeds to share emerging news with other people
  • the digital journalist is not afraid to link to other people's websites
  • the digital journalist's instinct is to publish news as soon as it happens, not to sit on it to fill next week's front page.
  • the digital journalist has a duty to provide good user experience to his/her readers by linking to further information.
  • the digital journalist can touch type (ha ha ha), take a half-decent digital photograph and point and shoot a video camera if required.
  • the digital journalist never goes anywhere without a laptop (or some means of submitting material)
  • the digital journalist knows how to find wi-fi hotspots
  • the digital journalist willingly (and legally) embeds other people's content (e.g. YouTube videos, Flickr photos, other suitable licensed Creative Commons materials) into his/her story
  • the digital journalist happily joins in online conversations resulting from his/her article
  • the digital journalist can use a range of web tools (including microblogging and social media) to develop stories.
  • the digital journalist can probably cobble a half decent video together and upload it
  • the digital journalist (often publishing without the safety net of sub-editors and editors) has an excellent knowledge of media law (especially libel)
  • the digital journalist (often publishing without the safety net of sub-editors and editors) can spell (or use a spell checker) and string a sentence together
  • the digital journalist almost certainly has at least one professional blog

Goodness knows what the union would say. I hasten to add that these are just personal thoughts off the top of my head and all completely unofficial.

Any ideas for the Second Draft?


JD said...

Might be worth mentioning podcasts while you're at it? Other than that, an excellent and thought-provoking list...

rebecca.froley said...

"the digital journalist never goes anywhere without a laptop (or some means of submitting material)"

...and the digital publisher shall kit out all its digital journalists with such means...

Andrew Orange said...

@ JD: Thanks. You're right. Audio doesn't quite cover it - I think examples of specifics like this will help our thinking, so yes. And vlogging, I suppose.

@ Rebecca: I take your point. But before we get the kit, we need to know what kit they need and to do that we need some idea of what they will be doing. Hence the post. :-)

Isabel said...

Another of your lists! How about:

the digital journalist is willing to experiment knowing that if it doesn't work you can just move on?

the digital journalist looks at metrics in a glass half-full, rather than glass half-empty kind of way?

the digital journalist recognises that being authorative doesn't mean being uptight?

Biofuelsimon said...

Hows about:
the digital journalist will post stories as accurately and quickly as possible using the best available media.

The digital publisher will recognise that the typed word is not always the best or fastest way to get a story into the public domain.

Karl said...

The digital journalist expects that the way they work and the tools that they use will constantly change, and takes responsibility for keeping up with the latest developments in digital journalism.

Andrew Orange said...

And here's a thought:

Given the inability of the corporate machine to keep abreast of emerging technology, the digital journalist probably throws up his or her hands in defeat and use his or her own kit - laptop, camera, whatever.

Brian said...

I am terribly old fashioned I know but I think it needs to be said:
"The digital journalist, be they freelance or staff, will be paid for their work...."

Andrew Orange said...

The digital journalist certainly would not write something as visually unengaging as I did in this post. Mea culpa. That's what comes of "thinking aloud"

HenryPUK said...

I have a couple of additional suggestions for your excellent draft - they are around the areas of analytics/metrics and promotion.

a) the DJ actively monitors the effects of their output in order to understand what works

b) the DJ knows how to use the media to promote their own material successfully (in an appropriate way)

No doubt these could be pithier...

rebecca said...

...the digital journalist is their own sub??? (link:

Andrew Orange said...

Identifies the signal within the noise and articulates it