Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Journalism: what are you best at?

Posted in Next Generation Journalist by Adam Westbrook on May 10, 2010

Every day until the 20th of May I’m featuring a creative new way for journalists to exploit the digital age to create new job & business opportunities for themselves. Full details are in Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism available for download on May 20th.

02. specialise in a single journalistic skill

The news production machine is a complicated beast with dozens of cogs needed to turn a story around; as well as reporters, subs, producers and editors, there’s increasing demand for data experts, infographic designers, fact checkers, and investigators.

For the Next Generation Journalist, this isn’t about becoming a cog in a bigger machine, but exploiting one of those cogs by becoming really good at it, and then using that as a basis for a business.

It’s not even a new idea if you consider how companies like Reuters and the Press Association have specialised in the gathering of information for more than a century; court reporters can be viewed in the same way, building a speciality in covering legal cases.

But the digital age has led to the creation of new skills, all of which can be turned into businesses for the forward thinking journalist.

Specialising in a particular journalism process…

  • allows you to focus in on your real passion in news & eliminate the things you’re less interested in
  • means you can build yourself a reputation as an expert in a profitable part of the news machine
  • lets you work as a self-employed freelancer for a range of clients, letting you be your own boss

There are plenty of business models you can build around this idea – from being a data miner (think Michelle Minkoff), or a data artist (think Drawnalism and NewsInfographics) to an expert in Freedom of Information requests (think HelpMeInvestigate) and investigations (think the Investigative Journalism Bureau).

Don Foley went freelance as a news graphic designer in the 1990s and is now sought by editorial and corporate clients for his work.

“The biggest benefit is freedom” he says, “I walk on the beach every day I ride my bike to my boat and fit my work into my life. I once too my family cruising on our boat for a year, working the whole time and many clients didn’t know unless I told them.”

The difficult part here is burrowing down to what really gets you going in journalism. Is it writing? Filming? Editing? Subbing? You need to know this about yourself before you continue.

Interested? Find out how to do it!

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  1. […] It’s nice to have a diverse set of skills, but you don’t need to be an expert at everything [Adam Westbrook] […]


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