Scan any job site for journalism roles and you’ll notice the same required skills and qualifications pop up more often than not. NCTJ certified degree or equivalent. Shorthand. Self-starter with a keen news sense.
Those are all useful skills, and in the ever more competitive world of journalism successful applicants will need to tick every single box. The issue is that many of the jobs advertised that way are for generalist news reporter positions, and there’s no position more vulnerable in an age where many publishers are cutting back on editorial staff than the generalist news reporter. It’s still possible to find yourself a niche, particularly if you’re lucky enough to work for a specialist publication, but those positions are becoming rarer, especially for journalists new to the industry.
The reality is that as a result of the erosion of beat journalism in favour of creating mass-appeal general content, often journalists are distinguished less by the topics on which they are an expert and more on the way they can tell stories, whether that’s through creating video, data visualisations, social campaigns or a news game. Establishing yourself as a master of one of those disciplines is a great way to ameliorate the risk of redundancy.
But there’s an even more vital skill for journalists in 2018, one that’s related to the reasons why the generalist journalist is at risk…