What skills and traits are necessary for a journalist in the new news ecology?

Submitted by carolzuegner on Tue, 03/03/2009 – 10:52am

Session Convenor: Carol Zuegner

Session Reporter: Carol Zuegner

Discussion Participants: Carol Zuegner, John Hatcher, Yoonserk Pyun, Kelly Puente, Liz Monteiro, Laura Kessel, Kat Powers

We had a wide range of people: two educators, two reporters, two editors and an online producer.

Kat Powers, who has successfully trying new strategies at her paper and Web site, Wickedlocalsomerville.com, says one key characteristic is to be bold, not afraid to try and innovate.

We have to tell stories in a different way, open up the process of story telling and the way it is produced.

Journalists now have to learn how to let go. It was suggested to look for people for whom change is the norm: Army brats and foster children.

Young people ( and all of us) have to get over the idea that “it’s not my job.”

One very important question: Can you get people who are willing to take risks?

Kat and others suggested that it’s not good to focus too much on the tools, because tools are tools and they will change.  Journalists in the new news ecology should be fearless.

Journalists have to develop people skills, whether interviewing, dealing with conflict or talking to an angry reader/viewer.  It’s important to understand marketing. It’s not enough to just put your story out there — you have to make sure that people see it, link to it, click on it.

With the immediacy of the Web and the drop in the number of copy editors, the environment seems to call for people who are skilled at writing and editing, the basics.This sparked some discussion over the need to get info on the Web quickly and whether people would stop reading because of poor grammar.

We also spent time talking about how things work at different papers.

Our list: ( Please add to it!)

Journalists still have to have “it,” the passion, the drive, the willingness to go after a story and to work to present it, on whatever platform, in the best means possible.

Skills: you’ll notice no real software here because that changes.

HTML: link, embed, image



Social networking

phone with a camera

story choreography: Putting all the pieces together, whether it’s multimedia or charticles

Writing basics (including grammar and punctuation)

story telling

ability to figure out the rest






Embrace failure

Ability to redefine


Open to critique

share power/humility


About Peggy Holman

Peggy Holman supports organizations and communities to uncover creative responses to complex challenges using innovative engagement processes. The Change Handbook, co-authored with Tom Devane and Steven Cady, documents many such processes. The book is the considered the definitive resource for leaders and consultants working to increase resilience, agility, and collaboration in organizations and other social systems. Peggy co-founded Journalism that Matters in 2001 with three journalists to support the pioneers who are shaping the emerging news and information ecology. Peggy’s latest book, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity, supports people facing disruptions to invite others to join them in realizing new possibilities.
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