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Skills for journalists: Again, the question

What skills does today’s journalist need to have? I do not think this question has only one answer.

In a comment on a blog post by Robert Hernandez, Michael Grimaldi wrote:

The highest skill of journalism is knowing the number of questions to ask, how many people of whom to ask them, and then reporting the answers as thoroughly and accurately as possible to convey the truth.

That’s journalism. The rest of it (touch typing vs. hunt-and-peck, spreadsheet software, graphic design/page layout, programming, code, photography or whatever) is technical skill and important to know, but, I suggest, not the essence of the profession and vocation of journalism.

Knowing which questions to ask — and of whom to ask them, and where to find those people (or those data sets) and how to get them to give you answers — yup, absolutely, these are essential skills …

For a reporter. But it takes more than reporters to produce journalism, and it always did. No, I’m not going to claim that the pressman was a journalist — he was not. And the IT guy is not a journalist either. But I think Michael Grimaldi and others who agree with him need to recognize that editors and designers and photojournalists and data journalists are, in fact, journalists.

They do journalism work. They produce journalism. And they don’t all go out with a pen and a notebook and ask questions of people on the street.

They do, however, ask questions. Lots of questions.

If you don’t understand that a graphic designer asks (and finds answers to) a very large number of questions before producing something like this, then I would suggest you do not understand how journalism is done in 2010.

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