Juggling multiple skills – Why today’s reporter has to be everything at once

So there I was, dealing with a random Apple update on my iPad and trying to call our tech expert, Joe, when the Kuna Melba News advertising representative, Karri, rushes through the door.

“There’s been a robbery!” she says. “It’s at the bank across the street. There are a lot of police.”

That’s my cue. I grab my camera with its lenses, notebook, recorder and smart phone and dash across the street to the local US Bank.

When something like a robbery, a large car accident or a fire hits I become a Swiss Army knife reporter. You may have seen me outside of the bank, two large cameras around my neck and phone in hand.

A photo I captured of firefighters frantically pulling out long hoses to stop a hay fire in Kuna, Idaho.

A photo I captured of firefighters frantically pulling out long hoses to stop a hay fire in Kuna, Idaho.

It’s not like I’m the best photographer, the best live news producer or the best videographer. Really my major skills are writing, interviewing and, being the Millennial I am, social media. And I’m still not perfect in those areas either. But in today’s world a reporter has to have skills in a little bit of everything to get the job done.

Once on scene I have to be able to take photos, talk with police, talk with witnesses and then try to do a live video broadcast for those who want the information right away. My live broadcasts are riddled with “ums,” pauses to collect my thoughts and random background noise (thank you Union Pacific for the train), but I become a little better every time.

A photo I took of police searching for a bank robbery suspect after he fled on foot near the greenbelt in Kuna, Idaho. October, 2016.

A photo I took of police searching for a bank robbery suspect after he fled on foot near the greenbelt in Kuna, Idaho.
October, 2016.

Then after I spend the necessary time on scene collecting information and media, I have to run back to my office, write a story and have my editors look at it before putting it on our website, Facebook and Twitter.

The quicker I can put up good, accurate and useful information the more I help our readers get the news they need quickly.

In the digital age, the old-fashioned print journalist is dead. When I was attending college at the University of Idaho, I had some great professors who mourned the day when they could just sit at a typewriter and work on just the story for a whole day; Deep, thorough stories that captivated readers. But many readers in the digital age spend less than one minute on an online article. Less than one minute. Readers mainly read the headline and the first or second paragraph. That means, as a reporter, I have to captivate my audience and get them the basic information they need within the first few paragraphs. (So really how many people are reading this column still?)

According to Time magazine, a recent study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average American spends only 19 minutes a day reading. Younger people, between the ages of 25 to 34, read less than ever with an average of eight minutes a day on weekends and holidays, while those 20 to 24 average around 10. The same article stated that 45 percent of 17-year-olds admit they only read for pleasure a few times a year, up from 19 percent in 1984.

How much time people from different age groups spend reading.  Source: Bureau of Labour Statistics

How much time people from different age groups spend reading.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Another article by Time magazine stated that another study shows online readers only spend an average of 15 seconds reading an online article (so I lost a majority of you a few paragraphs up).

“In fact, a stunning 55 percent spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page,” the article states. “The stats get a little better if you filter purely for article pages, but even then one in every three visitors spend less than 15 seconds reading articles they land on.

That’s why my professors hammered in the idea that as a new-age journalist I have to be a Jack of all trades. In the world of newspapers at least, from my own experience, newsrooms are shrinking, but reporters are becoming more skilled. At my job, my editor and publisher recognize this and do a great job trying to provide each reporter with the tools and skills to produce news on multiple platforms.

I spend every day at work interviewing, taking photos, posting on social media, writing stories, making calls and sometimes doing videos. We choreograph coverage of local events, organize candidate forums, find photos to highlight stories, take video interviews and some even do regular podcasts. Is everything we do perfect? No, but we do what we must to get the information out to you, our readers.

Why do we do this? Because reporters are the watchdogs of our communities. We keep an eye out for those who have to attend to daily life and might not have time to go to the city council meeting, the nearby planning and zoning hearing or the local protest.

According to the American Press Institute, “journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens. It may also offer voice to the voiceless.”

By becoming a reporter who can serve the news to those who need it using multiple platforms, I’m making sure everyone has a chance to hear the story. Whether it is to help them make informed decisions or to update them on situations within their community that need attention.

So excuse my “um,” my long pauses or my shaky video. I’m still new at the live broadcast aspect of my job. But I’ll keep doing it as long as it brings my readers the news they need. And when I receive positive comments, like the “thank you” I got from a parent wondering about the nearby schools on lockdown, I remember why I try to do a bit of everything.

And maybe next time our readers will spend more than 15 seconds reading our work, because reporters put a lot of effort into what they do.

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