Webb on the Web: Why Are You a Journalist?

porAmy Webb
Apr 6, 2009 en Journalism Basics

This week's column is slightly less techy, but with all the changes happening to global media I thought it would be a good time to offer you a self-assessment. The goal is to help you learn a little more about why you're in journalism, what your interests are and how to work to your strengths.

If you're someone whose job is in peril, this assessment will help you figure out what to do next. For those of you at training organizations, you can adapt this self-assessment for the journalists you work with so that you can better understand their individual needs and challenges.

Section One: What are your interests?
Sit down with a couple of magazines and newspapers that you already have at your home or office. If youʼre paper-free, think about what you listen to and watch. Go to your computer and pull up the networkʼs websites. If you get most of your information online, pull up 10 of your favorite websites.

Now, carefully go through your pile of stuff. Either tear out or print the stories that you like best. You might like them because of the way they sound or read. But you might also like a certain feature, or graphic element or maybe even just the subject matter. Take an hour or so to identify what you like. Once youʼre finished, spread out your clippings on a table or even on the floor.

Then answer the questions below:

1. Can you easily categorize the kinds of stories you preference? Are they all about politics? Do they all have the same number of words? Were they all built using Flash? Make a list of the similarities below:

2. What was it about these particular clippings that you liked? Was it the same style of writing or the same broadcast manner? Maybe it was the color scheme? Make a list of "whyʼs" below:

3. How often would you say that you think about the items on this list on a daily basis? For example, if you indicated that you really like stories built in Flash, how often do you seek out other content built that way? Have you been motivated to learn Flash on your own? Have you visited web tutorials or purchased books?

Section Two: How well do you work with your interests?
Do you currently report/write/produce/research/teach about any of the topics you indicate as your interests?

1. If so, explain how youʼre doing that - and be objective. Would a third-party observer agree with you?

2. Could you build your interests into the work you do or want to do? For example, if you really like Baltimore professional athletics, could you somehow cover them at your current job? If not, what is preventing you?

Section Three: What are your skills?
1. List your daily schedule. Be brutally honest and detailed.
(Example: 8a-9a, follow up on phone calls and email using Skype and Gmail.)

2. Make a list of the skills you identify from the table above. What software do you know? What social networks do you use? What communications skills do you have?

3. Have you ever taught others to use any of those skills? Could you teach someone else?

Section Four: Combine!
Now, list all of your interests in detail and think about the skills that might apply. For example, you might be greatly interested in public records and the information that can be gleaned from them. How might you access those records? A database on the Internet? What skills would you need to create one yourself? Or, you could be interested in fashion news, and maybe you have very good audio recording skills. Could you combine audio plus some photos and reporting to develop a weekly webcast about fashion?

Section Five: Action Plan
Now, letʼs determine how best to move forward.

1. Who do you know? Who works in the fields of your interest? Who has the skills that you think you lack? Is there a website or product similar to what youʼre interested in? Create a list below of at least five people and their contact information. Next, pick a specific date when youʼll contact them. This is importasend that email or make the call.

2. What will it take to start that new job/ begin work on that new project? Whatʼs holding you back? Identify your perceived obstacles below. Take an objective look - are those real obstacles, or just excuses?

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Amy Webb is a digital media consultant and head of Webbmedia Group, LLC. Find more multimedia tips and ideas at her blog, http://www.mydigimedia.com. You can also follow Amy on Twitter and delicious. Webbmedia Group is a vendor-neutral company. Any opinions expressed about products or services are formed after testing, research and interviews. Neither Amy Webb nor Webbmedia Group or its employees receives any financial or other benefits from vendors.