Future journalists need to be multiskilled in an industry that has “changed beyond recognition”, according to a Sydney freelancer who has worked in the media for 25 years.
Mick Toal, who has held various high-profile journalism positions, including online content editor at News Limited, believes aspiring journalists can no longer restrict themselves to reporting in just one medium.
Mr Toal said modern journalists need to be skilled in all facets of reporting to cope in the field and meet the demands of online reporting.
He started as a photographer for the Wagga Daily Advertiser in 1986 but then made a move into writing.
“When I first started writing there was uproar in the newsroom I worked in,” he said. “A photographer writing articles was unheard of.
“These days, because of budget cuts and many other factors, journalists need to be multiskilled and it is normal for a photographer to also write.”
Australian printed newspaper circulation has declined for 27 consecutive quarters as newspaper audiences continue to expand into non-print platforms. For the first time ever both of Australia’s biggest newspapers submitted their digital sales figures which reached almost 120,000 in the recent September quarter.
Mr Toal has witnessed many changes to the industry and has adapted to both the advantages and disadvantages that come with them.
“The industry has changed beyond recognition, particularly in the last two years it’s been a shocker,” he said.
“The business model has changed and we can’t stop it or resist. I moved effortlessly from being a print journalist to being an online content editor but it all seems very disposable because you can’t cut your work out and put it in a scrapbook. However, change is inevitable and you just have to work with it. As freelance budgets shrink many journalists are now expected to give away their work just for a byline.”
Young journalist Elise Holman is an example of the modern journalist in her role at Sky News as supervising sports producer.
Holman’s skills include presenting, writing and editing. She also regularly updates a Sky twitter feed – another aspect of change in the industry as it adapts to the impact of social media.
“My number one piece of advice to anyone wanting to be a journalist is to do as much work and get as much experience as you can because at the end of the day that is what will get you a job,” she said.
Mr Toal said the reality of reporting was often different to the perception.
“My career has been great and I’ve accomplished many things,” he said.
“It can be very political and it can be very nepotistic. I’ve met some of the best and worst people in the field. In most cases it doesn’t come down to journalistic talent – it comes down to who you know – but if you are good at what you do you will do it.” – Alison Thompson
Photo from spikeyhelen‘s photostream