Another series of questions and answers from a student:
1) Do you think the hypothesis “If you don’t have a blog, you won’t get a job” (in journalism) is correct?
Not literally, but in spirit yes. There will always be people without a blog who get a job through contacts, analogue experience, etc. but broadly speaking I think it’s very hard to convince an employer that you’re passionate about journalism if you’re not already doing it. The analogy I always draw is with the music industry: you won’t get a record contract if you’re not performing and recording already.
Perhaps a better way of saying it is “If you’re not doing it already for yourself, no one’s going to employ you to do it for them.”
2) What is your opinion about blogging in general?
It’s a form of publishing. Asking that is like asking “What’s your opinion about writing in general?” I don’t really have one.
3) Do you think it is a good way to get noticed amongst possible
4) Do you think employers use blogs to look for new people to hire, or take it into consideration in an interview?
I know they do. I know of various examples of publishers – particularly magazines – hiring people because they already have a successful blog or YouTube channel. I also know of many employers who look for it in applicants. Various very senior people at Sky, the BBC, and ITV among others have said knowledge and experience of social media is an important factor.
5) Do you think it is easier to get a job if you have a blog?
Yes. For all the reasons given above: you are a) demonstrating enthusiasm for your job; b) demonstrating an awareness of current practice; c) building assets which are attractive to an employer, e.g. an audience, a reputation, a good contacts book, experience.
A person who doesn’t have a blog is basically saying either that they are ignorant of developments in the industry, or that they aren’t that excited about doing journalism, or both.
Of course if they’re already spending all their time writing for publications or broadcasts then great, and they can say that, but I would guess those people are the minority, and are still missing an important skillset.
6) Do you think blogging is the new portfolio or job application?
No, I think that’s a soundbite!
7) Do you think it is fair that bloggers (those without a degree within media in particular) get a job through blogging?
Yes. Your question suggests that a degree represents either an entitlement to a job, or that its absence should be a barrier to entry.
Journalism has become a largely graduate profession over the last few decades, and although there are positive aspects to that (for example, they should be more critically analytical and better researchers – at least on paper), there are also negative aspects (it narrows access, so you get a less diverse and more homogenous profession which doesn’t represent or understand its readers).
What is ‘fair’ is that the best journalists get journalism jobs. If someone has demonstrated that through their blog, then that’s fair.
8) In regards to the growth of citizen journalism, what do you think is going to happen with professional journalism?
It’s quite a broad question, but – broadly – I think that the increased competition should be making professional journalists work harder to justify their jobs. In fact, I have heard journalists say repeatedly that they feel that they have to produce better journalism because their weaknesses are more easily found out and highlighted.
I think we’re seeing a move away from commodity content (news that everyone reports) and even ‘the story’ as the only way of reporting, towards more analysis, more interactivity (apps, services, etc), a need to understand data, to protect sources technically, and talk across multiple platforms.
Journalists are also being expected to better engage with communities and collaborate with them. But this will take decades, I think.
9) Do you consider citizen journalism a gift or threat to professional journalists?
A gift. It’s only a ‘threat’ if you can’t compete.
10) Do you think professional journalism has adapted more to citizen journalists, if they rely on citizen journalist sources or use their contributions?
Yes, professional journalism uses more contributions from users. That’s pretty obvious from the research.
11) BBC and CNN have been in the spotlight recently for using citizen journalists as sources without checking their facts. Does more “wrong information” appear in
The funny thing about ‘citizen journalism’ (a redundant phrase, really – you just mean ‘users’) is that it’s often users that point out flawed information. So it’s hard to say whether more wrong information appears in the media now because not only do we have more sources, but we also have a vastly increased ability to highlight errors. That, of course, is a good thing.
But there is also an increased time pressure on journalists to publish quickly, and that leads to errors, rather than citizen journalism per se.
Ultimately, blaming citizen journalism for more errors in the news is passing the buck. If a journalist makes a mistake, it’s their mistake – it’s not someone else’s fault.
But I think we’re in transition. Journalists are used to being processors of information, without always particularly challenging it (you can go through hundreds of examples of official sources going unchallenged over the past few decades – one highlighted recently being The Sun’s Hillsborough front page).
They are, slowly, learning to be more critical handlers of information, developing new verification techniques and tools, while the emphasis on speed is being gently challenged by some in favour of a role which is more about authentication.
12) How do you believe a professional and amateur relationship could be successfully used?
See above. Journalists are generally ‘jacks of all trades’ but users have specialist knowledge. The key is to marry those well – the journalist needs to know enough to not be manipulated, but not be too proud to learn from their users.
We also have to be prepared to damage relationships with some users if it’s in the wider interest – and that’s a big ethical challenge. But then relationships with sources have always been an ethical issue.
13) Do you see any negative sides with collaborative journalism?
Mainly the same issues with relationships with sources. But any journalism has risks – the key is that the journalist has prepared for those, or at least is prepared to learn, rather than writing something off because they don’t understand it.