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Panpa Bulletin : November 2010
www.panpa.org.au 30 | NOVEMBER 2010 | The PANPA Bulletin Digital dux WITH the proliferation of digital publishing platforms, the need for well-trained journalists is greater than ever with publishers seeking talent from outside the media to fill new roles. Online editors are demanding multi-platform, multi-skilled report- ers who bang out a news story, shoot video to go with it and publish it all online. A few years ago this would have involved three staff in three depart- ments. The concept of the multi-platform reporter depends on getting the training right -- both at universities and inside the newsroom. The type of training reporters are receiving across the Asia-Pacific re- gion varies widely. David Higgins, formerly editor of news.com.au and now innovations editor at News Ltd, says finding new journalists with the right skills is hard. "It's still difficult to hire people who have a strong experience in online journalism," he says. He says that with the convergence of platforms and media, and the new online roles being created, the industry must look outside for new blood. He sees the media coming full- circle in some areas, moving beyond multi-skilling to specialisation. "The industry is moving into a new phase where the quality and sophistication of our storytelling will increase to the point where multi- skilling won't be efficient," he says. He offers the example of so-called database journalists -- a role that takes databases of information, repackages it into an interactive online format, and uses it as the basis of a story. "They won't have to be a database developer, but have an understand- ing of what you can do with a database, and have a grounding in journalism," he says. "[People qualified] for the new roles are thin on the ground. They might be found in banking or ad agencies, or in a broadcast setting. They could come from anywhere. "I don't think anyone in the uni- versities or industry has quite figured out how that will work yet." Colin McKinnon is the editor in charge of training and development at Melbourne broadsheet, The Age. The Age has recently begun taking on new trainees again after suspend- ing the program for two years. Mr McKinnon says that only half of new trainees have degrees in jour- nalism. "The other half has degrees in other subjects," he says. "I suppose you might take that as a bit of an indication that we like to look more widely than journalism degrees," he says. Despite this, Mr McKinnon says he's generally happy with the level of training given by universities, but adds that most trainees come to The Age with a year's experience at a regional or community paper. Universities have responded to industry demands for greater multi- media and online skills. "The universities have realised that they need to get closer to the in- dustry, and have industry members on their advisory panels," he says. "As industry members have talked about the increasing integration of multimedia, we've seen multimedia elements added to courses quite soon after we've explained how it had been happening in our own organisations." Wayne Harman, managing editor of the New Zealand Herald, says the training situation in New Zealand differs from Australia. In New Zealand, the Journalists Training Organisation (NZJTO) ensures all journalism courses are standardised across all institutions. Mike Fletcher, executive director of the NZJTO, says they monitor training courses yearly with a panel of educators and members of the in- dustry to ensure the training remains relevant. "The scheme we have is unique because years ago, the industry --print, radio and TV -- decided they wanted formal pre-entry training, and the national diploma grew out of that requirement. "When you've done the course and you go into a newsroom, you've got some basic grounding in what's required." Mr Fletcher says that over the years, there's been a shift towards multi-skilling, with video, audio and online skills now desirable. "We develop programs as the requirements evolve, but it's impor- tant to ensure you can do the basics well - how to find news, gather news, media law; that kind of thing." Mr Harman says an important part of finding new journalists is through collaboration with universi- ties. "We bring the brighter students in as interns to get some hands-on newsroom experience. That allows us to cherry-pick." Mr McKinnon says The Age also has initiatives with universities. It recently involved students from RMIT in its "From the Outer" football project, where students use Twitter to cover the football from the stands. "It's been a really interesting ex- periment, I don't think anyone has done it before," he says. In the US, the New York Times is partnering with journalism students from New York University to pro- duce an upcoming hyper-local blog covering the East Village area. Called The Local: East Village, the site will publish content from students but with editorial oversight from the New York Times. Mr McKinnon can see the benefit of such a project, and says The Age plans to expand university collabo- ration. Mr Higgins says news.com.au "has had a very successful partner- ship with the University of Technol- ogy, Sydney, in which students and recent graduates help moderate comments". "Many of them have gone on to full-time roles with us, or leave us to bigger and brighter things -- and I'm very much in favour of that." Mr Higgins believes journalists also need to better understand the commercial side of the business. He jokes he'll be "crucified" for saying it, but he believes the in- dustry would benefit from greater understanding between editorial and sales. "There's a new commercial reality in journalism today," he continues. "Journalists need to be intelligent and smart, and have the ability to able to ensure the integrity and transparency of journalism contin- ues at the same time. "You could teach journalism students about the practical re- alities of the advertising industry, things like page impressions, UBs (Unique Browsers), CPMs (cost per 1,000 impressions). "None of that should make any difference to the quality and integ- rity of the editorial, though." Nick Evershed NPA Entering a new Age . . . Colin McKinnon, editor, training and development (second from left) with The Age's 2010 trainees Jared Lynch (far left), Richard Willingham (second from right) and Maris Beck (far right) The industry is moving into a new phase where the quality and sophistication of our storytelling will increase to the point where multi- skilling won't be efficient" David Higgins, innovations editor " Training ramps up for new generation of online journalism App offers guide to NZ tourists NEW ZEALAND publisher Mountain Scene has launched a new iPhone app aimed at Queenstown tourists. The new app draws from the '365 Queenstown' event and business directory, and caters to the 1.7 million tourists heading to Queenstown yearly. Taking the format of a searchable guide, the 365 Queenstown app shows locations and special offers from businesses, including restaurants and cafes, and also the burgeoning New Zealand adventure tourism industry. Mountain Scene's general manager Katrina Priest said the app would provide "local information at the touch of a button". "An app for Queenstown seemed a logical progression for us. We've made it easy for our print and online clients to ride the mobile media wave by creating a travel app for visitors to Queenstown. It's a win-win." Mountain Scene publisher Richard Thomas said the app "bridged the gap" between tech-savvy young travellers and the large number of brochures and publications aimed at tourists in Queenstown. "Queenstown is a unique location in terms of media, because of the vast numbers of tourists we get. When you look at the modern day traveller in that 18-15 age group, they're used to working with mobile apps," he said. The new app also provides Mountain Scene with an additional advertising revenue stream, saying they could now offer multimedia and online solutions to small business clients wanting to get into the space. "That's part of the challenge, because small businesses find that whole online space a bit of a minefield. "For sales, it's no longer just going out and selling the printed newspaper, but selling a full multimedia package." All app'ed up... The new Mountain Scene app features a searchable business and services directory targeted at tourists