Until Our Education Changes, Journalists Can’t Be One-Man Bands

MediaIntern2Technology has made it possible to produce an entire article from the palm of your hand with a click-worthy headline and tweetable content. Countless professionals have continually told me that my (millennial) generation can’t specialize in just one particular medium anymore like professionals did 20 years ago. We’re supposed to be one-man bands.

This is a little troubling for me. While I love writing and photography, my talents as a videographer aren’t as strong as I’d like them to be. Recent journalism graduates and current students don’t always have the time or opportunity to learn different technologies and specialties while in school. A lot of schools are struggling with trying to integrate these lessons into their curricula, so those of us with freshly earned bachelor’s degrees are scrambling to pick up extra skills in our spare time.

It’s a multimedia world, so by the time graduation rolls around students’ resumes should include skills in photography, videography, Photoshop, Soundslides, html coding and more. The problem isn’t that we aren’t willing to learn all of these skills; it’s that these courses can’t be squeezed into a mere four years of college. And journalism jobs often don’t pay enough for the extra cost of attending graduate school to further our education. My school had one photojournalism class and one multimedia journalism class that was only started a couple of years ago. The rest of the courses I was expected to take were on different writing styles, principles and ethics. Photoshop was a class meant for those in advertising and marketing. Videography was for the film majors, photography for the fine arts majors, and coding for all seven of the computer science majors.

I think the biggest issue right now is that journalists are pressured to try and be at the helm of all aspects of a story. Quality will decrease in these mediums because the proper amount of time was not given to each of them individually.

Last summer I had the opportunity to sit and speak with Jay Branegan, who was a correspondent at TIME magazine for 20 years. His advice to me was simple and straightforward: You can’t be a one-man band. Pick one or two specialties and stick with them — you can’t do it all unless you were taught to do them all, and most colleges don’t provide that opportunity. It was refreshing to hear this from a veteran journalist. I’d love to be able to say I’m the best video editor and best writer and best photographer, but in order to do those skills justice you need to devote time and dedication to learning all there is to know about them.

I do think it’s necessary to be somewhat competent in all the new aspects of journalism. But we shouldn’t all have to be experts in everything. Instead, we should put our efforts toward making the skills we do have better.

If you’re wondering who I am, check out my first #mediaintern post here. Or, follow me on Twitter @andandrewr.