Dear editors and other Very Important Newsroom People

When journalists apply for jobs today, they’re usually given some kind of writing test. Certainly the people hiring them will look at their clips. Everybody cares about how good a writer you are. So long as you write well, it seems, that’s all that matters.

But if I were hiring, the first thing I’d look at would be the prospective employee’s Twitter feed. What are they linking to? What are they reading? If they’re linking to great stuff from a disparate range of sources, if they’re following smart people on Twitter, if they’re engaged in the conversation — that’s hugely valuable. More valuable, in fact, than being able to put together an artfully-constructed lede.

So I’m not worried in the slightest by the rise of aggregation jobs, and of people devoting their days to linking and summarizing. That’s a crucial journalistic skill and service, it’s what readers want, and there aren’t nearly enough people who are good at it. It’s certainly much more useful than being the 35th reporter in a press conference, writing down whatever the Important Person up front is saying, or being part of some media scrum trying to get a quote out of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer.

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous May 19, 2011

    Utterly ridiculous. Savvy social media use is a useful skill, but it in no way, shape or form is anywhere near as valuable a skill as effective communication and good writing. This argument is so ridiculous that I’m not sure why I’m even bothering to respond. It’s the kind of argument someone would make if they were completely delusional about their lack of journalistic skills and know-how. It’s something someone would tell himself in an attempt to convince himself the reason he wasn’t entertaining a flood of job offers was that hiring managers were complete ignoramuses and blind to his absolute, undeniable genius when, in reality, he’s totally devoid of talent, knowledge, writing ability, or any other essential journalistic tool. The above paragraphs are much like Don Quixote tilting at journalism-industry windmills, with none of the romantic charm and a whole lot more of the pathetic futility.

  2. Anonymous May 19, 2011

    One more thing: If you’re going to cut/paste from another person’s work, I think you need to credit them at the top, by name and (if appropriate) affiliation, not just with a teeny link at the bottom of your post. I wouldn’t have known this was Felix Salmon’s words and not your own if I hadn’t read the original blog post.

  3. Anna Tarkov May 20, 2011

    Jenni, I think it would be best for us both if you stopped commenting in the future on anything I post or say. You’re of course still free to do as you like, but I really think it’s not beneficial to either of us. You obviously don’t like me, don’t like my opinions, etc., etc. I’m not sure what I’ve done to wrong you or upset you so much, but maybe it would be nice just to go our separate ways, at least online. I’ve had disagreements with people before, but people who use their real names generally take a different sort of tone.

    Like you, I’m not sure why you bother to respond. And also, it’s Felix Salmon’s argument, not mine. I happen to agree with the tenor of it (and I think you’ve misread it slightly), but the original words still came from him. So perhaps this comment would have been more appropriate for his Reuters blog post. Your quarrel is technically with him, is it not?

    I DO think I’ve understood his meaning, but I hesitate to put words in his mouth in the defense of a position that I didn’t originally take. If you’re interested in why I agreed, I can certainly tell you. But I’m hesitant to do even that, because I feel (and I hope I’m wrong) that your point of view on this is hardened and inflexible. I doubt anything anyone could say would matter, least of all me since you’ve demonstrated over and over that you don’t respect me.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but your comment that “It’s something someone would tell himself in an attempt to convince himself the reason he wasn’t entertaining a flood of job offers…” seems directly pointed to me. Again, I could be totally wrong. But if I’m not, it’s an extremely unkind thing to say to someone you don’t know on a personal level. Do you also walk down the street and shout out to people if you don’t like their hair or their outfits?

    As for crediting Felix more prominently, perhaps you’re right. No one has ever brought it up before (and I’m often at pains to ask that people read the entire piece), but it’s a good suggestion and I’ll probably implement it in the future if I excerpt from something without adding anything of my own (a rarity).

  4. Anonymous May 20, 2011

    I’m confused–only people that agree with you and don’t challenge you can comment? That seems to be what you’re saying. I’ll honor your wishes, just because you seem to be determined to interpret all my comments as directed toward you, and it wasn’t my intent to lob balls of meanness at you’re head. If you’re not interested in dialogue with people that don’t fall lock-step in line with your point of view, then yes, I should stay away from your blog. If you’re interested in engaging in dynamic dialogue about the state of journalism, good journalistic practices and all that jazz, then I’ll stick around.

Comments are Disabled