There's a growing expectation that videojournalists need to embrace and master a dizzying array of skill sets.
There used to be a time when newspapers and TV news teams would consist of at least a reporter/interviewer and someone behind the lens of a camera -- and each field unit would have the support and input of editors back at headquarters. Now all those duties -- finding and researching a story, conducting interviews and amassing facts, shooting and editing audio and visuals -- are expected to be accomplished by the same person.
The likelihood of that individual excelling at such a diverse set of journalistic and technical tasks is exceedingly slim.
Now add to that an entirely new expectation.
Given the miserable state of the economy, the downsizing and collapse of media institutions, nobody is hiring journalists. Those starting (or trying to piece together the shambles of) their careers are being advised to not even bother jobhunting. Instead, they're being instructed to redefine themselves as "journalism entrepreneurs" and create their own economic opportunities.
So in addition to being able to interview, report, write, shoot, and edit (text, audio, stills and video), you need to be able to master product development, sales, promotion, advertising, marketing -- and all in a digital context, which implies scaling the heights of social media, conquering search engine optimization, and slaying 'em in the aisles with your tutorials and seminars on the workshop/lecture circuit. Oh, and be sure you can write killer applications for foundation grants.
Any one of these pursuits had traditionally constituted a fulltime career unto itself. Now if you can't bat, catch, throw, run, and exude enough charisma to be a commercial spokesperson -- well, don't look back, because everyone else is gaining on you.
Understandably, journalism schools are in a funk trying to figure out what exactly to teach students to prepare them for the workplace. While it's always a good idea to get a well rounded education that acquaints you with multiple aspects of a profession, students and professors alike naturally wonder whether it's better to focus on mastering one thing well -- and worry whether that one thing will even exist in the future.
Our stance is that technology will always evolve -- and it's vitally important to stay abreast of those changes -- but the fundamentals of excellent journalism and great storytelling will remain as constant in the years ahead as they have for the centuries preceding us.
What we're less sure about is how critical it will be that reporters, writers, editors, photographers and videographers become entrepreneurs. Arguably, many of the "brand name" stars in each field have taken that route -- though it's unlikely they thought of themselves in those terms. Unfortunately, the skills and activities that make you shine in one arena don't necessarily translate to the other. Still, if your traditional jobhunting quest is not going well, it couldn't hurt to consider the advice of those who are successfully pursuing the entrepreneurial path.
We'd like to hear your thoughts. Do you think it's practical for most journalists to repackage and giftwrap themselves as entrepreneurs? Does this sound like something that would suit your skills and sensibilities? Does the prospect of being an entrepreneur enhance or diminish your enthusiasm for being a journalist?