Journalists are required to have 'an appreciation of the importance of data, of facts and figures'Credit: Image by
Here are five key skills Steve Herrmann he looks for when recruiting for journalists to work for the BBC News website.
1. Traditional skills
"There are a few old fashioned skills that we would be looking for that maybe haven't changed," Herrmann says. "One of them is basic curiosity and resourcefulness."
He also says a legal knowledge is vital.
Asked whether he still looks for shorthand when recruiting, he says: "I wouldn't say it's a must have, but it's still proving useful for people because I think in the end when you are up against it and you have to absorb a lot of information and detail quickly, it's a very tried and tested way to get that done. The people who have shorthand, I think, always find it useful even in a largely digital newsroom."
(For a discussion around whether shorthand is still a necessary skill to learn, see this feature.)
2. Speed and accuracy
The next on Steve Herrmann's list of key skills, is about writing and "being able to be accurate and clear in the way you express yourself, and to do that under pressure and quickly".
"The ability to get thoughts down or out quickly and succinctly and accurately is absolutely key. It's not exactly a new digital skill that's required, but it's one that in some ways I think is more important than ever because the speed at which news moves now is greater than it ever has been."
3. Visual storytelling
When recruiting, the team at BBC News online also want to see evidence of "an ability to appreciate the importance of still pictures, video, graphics and audio in communicating and telling stories, and the different ways in which those media can complement one another when you are trying to tell a story".
"So even if they haven't done TV journalism or radio journalism and they are not a graphic designer, evidence that they have got some appreciation and understanding of those areas. And it's very easy now to do this kind of thing on your own computer in your own room with the tools that are available nowadays.
"An understanding, interest, appreciation and awareness of how to tell stories using any and all of those media is key."
4. Social media
Steve Herrmann also says "an awareness of how social media works and how social networks relate to news", is necessary if you want to work for BBC News online.
You need to understand how to use social networks for newsgathering "and to understand how to leverage social media to find out things, to get in contact with people, to talk to people and to spot trends".
Secondly, you need to know "how to use social media to get your own work out and your own journalism out and as a means of distribution".
5. An appreciation of data
The BBC News web team also look for "an appreciation of the importance of data, of facts and figures", Herrmann says,
"That's obviously always been critical in journalism, that's not new, but ways of using data to tell stories, whether it's a simple graphic in a story that illustrates something as simple as a line graph or a pie chart, all the way through to a whole interactive application you can put figures or data or numbers into to get results that are relevant to you.
"That does require some specialist skills; there are skills to do with coding and development, to do with numeracy and understanding data and to do with good design and visualisation, but there's also some old fashioned journalistic skill needed to find the stories and to tell them in a clear and simple way.
"Again, it's not necessarily being expert in all of those things but being aware of the importance of data and appreciating when it can be really effective and have impact."
Herrmann's final point is included in the list of 10 things every journalist should know in 2013 (linked to above). It is the importance of embracing change.
"The last thing I'd say is, and this is not really a skill, but I think that if you are coming into journalism now and if you are working particularly on digital platforms, you have to love change.
"If you don't love change you are going to be a very stressed out and unhappy individual because things change so quickly, whether it's the tools that we use or the way in which audiences get their information.
"And in a way you have to love that because otherwise it's going to get you down."
Free daily newsletter
- 'Hone your craft': Newsroom training advice from FT and NPR
- Embracing change: What digital skills should journalists learn in 2016?
- 'You learn by collaborating with colleagues, not by strategising alone' – Q&A with The Economist's Denise Law
- Citizen journalists in Syria 'start writing history'
- Introducing training options and more speakers for December’s news:rewired