Evolution of print to online journalism ‘held back by lack of training’

Journalists are keen to learn new skills to cope with the changing news environment, but aren’t being given the training or resoruce to do it, a debate in Darwin heard last night.  

Speaking at the Future Of Journalism debate organised by the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance at Parliament House, the union’s federal secretary Chris Warren said: “Times are tough and we are going to need to develop new ways of working if we are to survive. “Journalists are getting excited about the new trends and new technologies we are being handed. But what’s not clear is how that’s going to stack up economically. The disruption to the business model continues to be as profound as it has been rapid.

“Media owners cannot see their staff as a cost to be cut – that’s short term. They need to work out how to get the maximum value out of the considerable resource they have.”

Jano Gibson, a former Sydney Morning Herald journalist, and now web editor at the ABC in the NT, told the audience that during his time on the newspaper, the challenges of filing both a fully considered piece for the print edition and something rapid for the web site met major resistance. He said: “I saw a lot of frustration from print journalists to the point of rebellion. In the early days at the Herald it was it was overstepping the mark if you were even going to file for the web.”

Clive Hyde, former pictorial editor of the Northern Territory News, said new pressures on photographers to shoot both stills and video was similar to when editors had asked them to shoot with both black and white and colour film. “If the building’s about to blow up, do you want it in colour or black and white? Because it can’t be both.”

He said that the skills of video, that demanded, for instance, shooting the whole piece from a particular direction were different to a photographer who could roam around. But he added: “If the company gives us the chance to learn there’s nothing to be scared of.”

However, he revealed that although the equipment is already at the NT News, it is not being used. He said: “There’ve been video cameras in the drawer for a long, long time. It has not been addressed – perhaps because of union issues.”

There was a similar issue with untrained print journalists being put in front of video cameras, said Gibson. “Some journalists on newspapers now are asked to go and front of the video camera and have got no idea how to do it.”

ABC Stateline journalist Danielle Parry, who was moderating the debate, said: “I’m appalled a journalist can put a video camera in front of their face and call themselves a TV journalist.” Discussing the use of on-the-spot footage shot by untrained people, she said: “It’s fine if it’s from the public, I’m not so sure it’s fine if it’s a print journalist who’s shaking because they don’t know what they are doing. Maybe we need to be clear and label it amateur video and educate your audience about the difference.”

James Dunlevie, web editor at the Northern Territory News, said: “The journalists are quite young and use Twitter and blog and are quite happy to file a couple of pars for an early break. What’s holding them down is resourcing in the staff. There’s not the resourcing for people to constantly upload. The will is there but the means are not, which is possibly the wrong way to go about things.”

Meanwhile, Parry said: ‘Journalists have to self censor themselves and say ‘I can only do this much without compromising quality’.”


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