Video skills might help (or launch) your career in journalism now. But in the future, as the media industry changes, they could prove more of a necessity than an asset.
Don’t be ruled out; in an increasing number of (sometimes surprising) cases, multimedia skills are now a prerequisite for internships and entry level journalism jobs.
Many online publications that have traditionally been text based now want their interns to have other skills too. The Telegraph graduate scheme this year required a video, to talk about a recent piece of journalism the applicant had enjoyed. In addition, see this excerpt from an advert for an intern posted by the Spectator last summer…
“All that matters in journalism is that you can do it. To enter, please just do some of the following:-
Three of the four other tasks listed also required digital skills. In his blog, Paul Bradshaw, who runs the MA Online Journalism course at Birmingham City University and is a visiting professor at City University’s School of Journalism, points: “There is one option (number 4) for those who think they can avoid digital skills – but that is the exception to the rule. It’s also the exception to the preceding instructions that ‘All that matters in journalism is whether you can do it.’
“What the list makes clear is: even to get a foot in the door, you must be able to do it digitally.”
Applicants with additional skills are more appealing to recruiters; being able to record and edit short films will make you stand out from the heaps of other people applying for every job.
In an article on journalism.co.uk, Alison Gow, an editor at Trinity Mirror Regionals, confirms this:
“It’s lovely when somebody comes in for an interview and they’ve brought along a tablet or something they can show me some multimedia they’ve done,” she says, “for example, video around a story or a podcast they’ve made”.
She continues, “I really think people who do that show that they have thought more deeply about what the journalist’s role is nowadays in storytelling, and have taken it on. I don’t want to detract from text; 350 words of news story is sometimes all that a news story needs to be.
“But to have that added ability to do video – and I’m not talking about Spielberg level video here – but just to have thought to take a video, and add to the way that that story is told and to embed it in that article, says to me that’s somebody who really has a skill that you’d want to bring into your newsroom.”
Fewer print publications means fewer jobs in newspaper journalism and, unless the internet breaks, the trend of falling newspaper sales is unlikely to change.
According to last years officially audited ABC circulation figures , the overall daily newsprint newspaper market is falling at a rate of more than 8% a year.
Meanwhile, Roy Greenslade reported in the Guardian as early as 2011 that while print sales fall, “users of virtually all the newspaper websites go on rising month by month. In front of our eyes, the press business is changing shape.”
For most newspapers, the solution may be to go online only, or at least pursue a digital-first strategy, like The Financial Times which saw sales fall by 14.68% last year.
In a 2013 a New Yorker Report suggested that this is the plan for the Guardian too. In response to warnings from the director of the trust and C.E.O Andrew Miller, that the trust’s money would run out in three to five years, the current editor Alan Rusbridger has pushed to transform the Guardian into a global digital newspaper, aimed at engaged, anti-establishment readers and available entirely free. Rusbridger says he can envisage a paperless Guardian in five to ten years or imagine printing only on certain days.
The move online means that, while traditional journalism jobs are becoming a rarity, a new space is opening up for journalists and digital skills, particularly video, could help you take advantage of this.
(Advertising an event) The Guardian US writes, “Online video has revolutionised traditional print organisations and changed the way the Guardian approaches journalism; smartphones, editing software and evolving camera technology have made potential video journalists of us all: inky-fingered hacks are being told to pick up a camera…”
“Video is now a truly democratic and accessible medium no longer requiring high-cost equipment or years of apprenticeship.” – The Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
In addition to it now being possible to buy decent video equipment relatively cheaply, learning practical digital video production and editing skills is far easier than you probably think. I learned the basics in just four days on an in-depth but affordable course and came away with enough skills to continue practicing on my own.
Anyway, speak to almost any documentary filmmaker and they’ll tell you that the hard part isn’t the technical stuff, it’s finding, researching and structuring their story…
John Fiege, Above All Else (2014) : “Finding the story tends to be the hardest part of production.”
Amy Berg, Deliver Us From Evil (2006): “Some directors use writers, and some producers insist on writers, as telling the story on the screen is one of the most difficult aspects of the craft.”
Miki Redelinghuys, Mama Goema (2011) “The hard part was to find the story within the situation”
Luckily, picking the story out of a situation and structuring this story is something journalists already know how to do. If you’ve already learnt or are learning how to find and structure stories, you have the harder part of making videos down already – why not learn the simpler part?
Learning a new skills like making videos is interesting and enjoyable. Journalist Laurie Penny recently tweeted as much:
“Today I had my first video-editing lesson and made a short clip. There’s NOTHING like learning a new skill. It’s so much fun!”
And, perhaps more importantly, viewers like online video too.
A report by ComScore found that in 2013 the UK online video audience had grown by 8% in the past year (no doubt it’s grown again since then), whilst the mobile video audience had grown by 262%.
Many postgraduate journalism courses now include modules in documentary filmmaking as part of the syllabus and students often have the option of producing a short film as a final piece.
However MA Journalism courses aren’t something everyone can afford to do – they cost up to £14,000 and requiring a year of full time work.
Alternatively, Spectacle, an independent documentary production company based in London offers affordable (starting at £240/£120 concessions) short courses in practical digital video production and editing skills. It also offers large discounts for students and unemployed people, and as a small, socially-minded company, its profits go back into supporting its community-based work.