Making time for added value

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I have an intellectual crush on Robert Picard – he’s one of the academics currently publishing about journalism, and particularly mainstream print media, who really is a must-read. 
I mostly follow his journal papers as he’s an occasional blogger but, like Clay Shirky, it’s always worth reading when he posts an update. 

His latest post, Many Journalists Can’t Provide the Value-Added Journalism Needed Today, makes the point:

To survive, news organizations need to move away from information that is readily available elsewhere; they need to use journalists’ time to seek out the kinds of information less available and to spend time writing stories that put events into context, explain how and why they happened, and prepare the public for future developments.  These value-added journalism approaches are critical to the economic future of news organizations and journalists themselves.

Unfortunately, many journalists do not evidence the skills, critical analytical capacity, or inclination to carry out value-added journalism. News organizations have to start asking themselves whether it is because are hiring the wrong journalists or whether their company practices are inhibiting journalists’ abilities to do so.  

Added value journalism doesn’t thrive when there’s a requirement to write multiple page leads, plus hampers, photo captions and nibs every day. For writers, it’s hard to find the time to develop your own skills and methods of story-telling.
Audience can add value, if we get them involved – through comment, image-sharing, document scrutiny or suggesting interview questions. Given the invitation, they’ll come up with some good headline suggestions too (I particularly like the Northern Echo’s use of this). 

I have an issue with this statement…

Unfortunately, many journalists do not evidence the skills, critical analytical capacity, or inclination to carry out value-added journalism. 

…because the evidence of the Daily Post newsroom trial demonstrates, ever day, that reporters do have the skills and inclination to add value. They may lack the time, but that’s an entirely different thing and a failing of an organisation, not an individual. 

 But Picard is right to say journalists should add value themselves, whether through context, data interpretation or by creating compelling, competitive content, be that via text, images, visuals or curation. 

The landscape of newsrooms, especially regional newsrooms, has changed vastly. There are smaller teams but within those we need a wider range of skills, or entirely new skills. Added value for readers can also be career-enhancing for hacks. 

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