Opinion Columns & Blogs

August 11, 2014

Dear Reader | A guide to building the 21st century journalist

Writing a job description for a 21st century journalist is a complicated task.

Writing a job description for a 21st century journalist is a complicated task.

Successful journalists have always needed an insatiable curiosity about the world and a desire to share what they learn through well crafted words to readers, or with evocative images for viewers. They also must aspire to share words or visuals that enlighten, educate and inspire others to make their communities a better place — even, and perhaps especially, when there’s disagreement on what would make things better.

Most of the time, they must aspire to this on a level that transcends the size of a paycheck or the length of a work day. If I had a dollar for every career counselor or journalism school graduation speaker who cautioned that this is not a career for those seeking 9-to-5 riches, well, I’d have plenty of riches.

Today’s journalists need these qualities and much more. They must also understand technology that allows us to share information in roughly the time it takes you to blink, and they must be able to communicate across the many platforms of that ever-changing technology to share stories, photos, videos and databases to feed the appetites of news consumers 24/7.

I share this challenge because we are in the process of changing the makeup of our staff to better focus on digital news gathering and storytelling, and to strengthen our efforts as the watchdogs of our government agencies for all of our news products.

This ongoing effort begins with these changes: Todd Garvin, previously our digital leader, is now the company’s digital general manager. Caroline Evans, the features and special sections editor (among many other tasks) is now the digital editor. Josh Bell, formerly a key member of our universal production/sports desk is now working as part of this digital strategy team focusing on providing content, especially for our tourism site: www.gotomyrtlebeach.com. (Check out his goPro video from area water parks, coming soon.)

Vicki Grooms, who has covered the world of public education for the past few years, has moved into the role of features/special sections editor.

Next on the list: Finding journalists who can fill the significant holes left behind by these changes so that we continue to give our readers information they need, and make sure our public officials are good stewards of our tax dollars.

Our news staffers have long had a role in our digital presentation, and those efforts will continue to evolve and increase. Reporters already post news as quickly as possible when it happens and update as stories develop. They also shoot video, Tweet news and interesting tidbits to their followers and, as always, interview sources, stakeholders and government leaders.

Those on the night editing and production desk not only do the many things necessary to publish the print edition every day, they also make sure stories have been updated online after editing and stay late to make sure the latest big sports and national news makes it online long after our print deadline.

Photojournalists are also videographers and reporters, photographing and writing stories, posting news online and serving as our readers’ liaison with the community, taking them behind the scenes and allowing them to see their community and neighors through the perspective of their lenses.

Yes, it’s an exciting and sometimes exhausting world for journalists these days. I may do an ultimate edit on the job description and say, simply: The job calls for a superhuman.

As always, thanks for sharing our journey and sharing your thoughts on how we’re doing.

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