Speaking at the NCTJ's Journalism Skills Conference at Bournemouth University, a panel were asked to give advice to journalists, particularly those entering the field.
The panel featured Peter Bale, vice president and general manager of CNN International Digital; Pete Clifton, executive producer for MSN UK; and Liisa Rohumaa, a journalism lecturer at Bournemouth University.
1. Build your own brand
Journalists were encouraged to work on building a brand, rather than just being an entity of the news outlet they work for.
Peter Bale highlighted this as a "big shift in our era". He said, for example, on Twitter, which he described as "by far the most important source of news now", it is about the individual.
"It's people whom I'm choosing to follow, that I trust, not the platform. It's about sharing and being a good source of information, and that's what builds your Klout – literally," he said referring to the platform which measures online influence.
Liisa Rohumaa added that the push for individual branding seems to have arisen from a "relentless quest for SEO". She said journalism students are taught that "the best SEO is content, the story".
However, she added that if a journalist is able to "develop a reputation as a really good reporter then your byline will be your SEO."
See these personal branding tips we shared last week.
2. Be good storytellers, but also understand the business
Of course, those entering the journalism industry will be required to tell stories effectively, from the basics of good writing skills, and, more generally, will need "motivation and energy".
Pete Clifton, for example, argued that "a lot of the core skills are as true today as they have ever been", and stressed the importance of a dogged determination to tell stories, as well as spelling. He would bin any CV featuring spelling errors, he added.
But journalists today also need to have an understanding of the industry, in particular all the cogs which exist within the machine of their own news outlet.
They "need to know about the underlying technology", on which the company sits, he explained, and "the business" itself.
They "have to understand the economic driving forces in the industry," he added, and the technology impacting significantly on the development of the business, such as HTML5 and responsive design.
3. Being a curator
CNN's Peter Bale stressed the role journalists can also play in delivering content to their audience from across the web, through curation and aggregation.
And there is no excuse online to not offer readers this wider look on the world, he added. "We can now include the source material in every story we write," he explained, and "give so much more background than we used to be able to give".
4. Engage with your community beyond the article
A key point made by Liisa Rohumaa, was that community engagement all too often appears to be missing.
She said that journalists have been guilty of waiting for the audience "to come to us". But it is "our job to go to them", she said.
"One of my big bugbears," she added, is "how journalists fail to interact with their audience online". Looking within commenting facilities at how journalists interact with commenters is one example. Journalism.co.uk has previously reported on the impact journalists can have by engaging below the line, increasing quality and focus.
MSN's Pete Clifton also touched on the value of journalists considering how they "market their own stories", before, during and after the event.
Planning helps to enhance the impact and reach a story can achieve, he explained.
5. Ask difficult questions
And finally, ensure that as a journalist, you are constantly asking questions. Curiosity is key, the panel agreed.
Be a "member of the awkward squad", Liisa Rohumaa advised.
Free daily newsletter
- Tip: Check out this advice for reporting on terrorist attacks
- 10 format ideas for short-form audio storytelling
- 3 ways to make data visualisations and interactives work on mobile
- Tip: Advice for taking 360-degree photographs
- 'There's no such thing as a digital native': The importance of technology journalists in 2017