27 October 2013

8 things every journalist should learn

There are so many different types of journalists that defining the curricula for journalism students can be a hot topic. Journalism includes small-town, all-purpose reporters; multi-purpose, multi-media workers; interactive data journalists and researchers; and specialists in many subjects.

Olga Khazan, writing in The Atlantic, proposes several common-sense core topics that should be in the toolbox of any journalist. Here are the headlines, with some thoughts of my own
  1. Statistics
  2. Data
  3. Experiments and sampling (i.e. how to interpret studies)
  4. Marketing (not only pitching stories and understanding public interest and e.g. viral media, but also handling pushy PR people and separating story angles from spin)
  5. Civic issues (human and civil rights and media law should also be part of this)
  6. Online writing (add broadcasting, video, audio and photography) 
  7. The internet - how it works and why (include privacy and research techniques)
  8. Plus: how about some basics, like story construction (5Ws+H, story pyramid, human interest), note-taking, writing techniques, hygiene (spelling, grammar, house style) and maybe even basic computer skills (keyboard, software etc.); plus some broader issues such as how to build rapport with readers, an understanding of human rights and journalistic rights, and a sense of ethics and obligation to match with your potential impact as an authority figure, commentator, critic and - perhaps - advocate (for a recent debate on the difference and merits of each, read this piece in The Guardian).
What do you think should be in every journalist's toolkit?