Review: “The Digital Journalist’s Handbook” by Mark S. Luckie
It’s no secret we all need to tool up. And it’s no secret the thought of doing video or podcasts or data visualisations is pretty terrifying for anyone who’s just had a single discipline for much of their journalism career.
Mark’s the sort of guy with the right attitude: laid off from his staff job in the US last year, (which he says “devasted” him) he set about making the most of the opportunities presented by the digital revolution. He turned his blog (10000words.net) into a must read for any journalist – and then wrote this book.
“I was hungry and flat broke, but the book gave me something else to focus on and channel my energy into.”
Beats sitting at home watching Rikki Lake in your pants, right?
The very basics
The Digital Journalist’s Handbook is, I think, aimed at the complete novice in a range of disciplines. It gently introduces you into video, audio, flash, data visualisation, writing for the web, blogging and audio slideshows, assuming you had never heard of the terms before you picked up the book.
If you’re familiar with any of these disciplines you might find The Digital Journalist’s Handbook a tad frustrating. But for the nervous novice, it’s a God send. For example, I didn’t get much from the chapters on blogging, video or audio, but as soon as I reached the dedicated chapters on Flash and Data Visualisation the learning began in earnest.
Mark introduces you to each medium, telling you how it’s used and what for and then offers practical advice on using the actual equipment involved. You’ll get introduced to Final Cut Pro, Audacity, Soundslides and Flash; just enough to get you started, but I think you’ll need the kit on your computer to really get the most out of it.
The Digital Journalist’s Handbook is backed by a healthy dose of supporting materials. Clear diagrams and photographs adorn the pages, from a valuable visualisation of a video editing interface, to arguably over the top diagrams of a USB lead. But, then not everyone know’s what a USB lead is right?
And not content with a book alone, Mark has also created an excellent supporting website, referred to regularly within the pages, packed with extra goodies for readers, including extra tutorials and recommended software.
The ever changing industry…
There’s a danger with publishing a physical tome for such a rapidly changing industry could put this book out of date too quickly, but after a thorough read through I think Mark S Luckie’s work will stand the test of time. Sure the industry will change around us, but for the forseeable future video, audio, slideshows, flash and data visualisation are permanent parts of the multimedia journalists tool kit.
The Digital Journalist’s Handbook is all about the practical skills, and doesn’t really touch on the all important mindset for the next generation journalist. It is a book written for journalists who want to make money the old way, on news desks or as a freelancer.
For more and more graduating students that isn’t a practical option any more.
However, even what I call Next Generation Journalists, looking for new work opportunities, would be foolish to pass over the skills contained in the Digital Journalist’s Handbook. Whatever path you choose, you’ll need the same skills.
In true new journalist style, Mark has also shared how he made the book, a guide perfect for anyone thinking of self publishing:
“I decided to self-publish The Handbook to prove to myself and to others that it was no longer necessary to go through traditional channels to successfully publish and distribute a book.”
It wasn’t long before Mark was offered a staff job again, but he still keeps his hand in the blogging scene, and his posts are always worth checking out. Reflecting, Mark says he feels lucky to have lost his job when he did.
I think we should feel grateful too – without Mark losing his job, we’d probably be without this valuable (and currently unique) training handbook.
Have you read it? What do you think? Stick ’em in the comments below.