The job goes to people who don’t just have the skills, but to those who demonstrate knowledge and curiosity about the job, the company and the broader digital landscape.
Meredith Artley, Vice President and Managing Editor of CNN Digital, discusses what she’s looking for when hiring digital journalists in Nieman Lab’s series evaluating j-schools. Two of Artley’s most important insights:
1. Know the industry and have a dialogue during your interview.
The main mistake I see recent college grads make in interviews — and sometimes not-so-recent grads as well — is an expectation of a one-way conversation. I’ve seen candidates with strong resumes who haven’t appeared to have done their homework or haven’t come with their own questions. It could be anything — tell me something you like or don’t like about CNN, ask me to describe the culture of the newsroom, share an observation about a competitor. Just don’t expect a passive experience where we ask the questions, then you supply answers and wait for the next question. I’ve always seen interviews as an opportunity for a conversation, and to learn if it’s a right fit for both parties, no matter what side of the table I’m on.
2. Coding is a hot skill but know your beat too.
Skill-wise, people who have the killer journalist/coder combo have been a hot commodity for some time. But those candidates now are becoming easier to find thanks to schools evolving their programs by melding programming and journalism courses, and people who learn interactive reporting skills on the job.
It’s getting harder to find specialists in certain beats. There are generalists galore. A broad curiosity about the world is a good prerequisite for landing a job in journalism, but the resumes that show specialized interest and experience in a beat or topic are increasingly rare and precious — health, foreign affairs, science, education, religion, to name a few.
FJP: Not everyone would agree that enough journalists know how to code, though. Miranda Mulligan, executive director of Northwestern University’s Knight News Innovation Lab, encourages a re-vamping of j-school curricula.
We need to innovate our curricula, really looking at what we are teaching our students. Learning, or mastering, specific software is not properly preparing our future journalists for successful, life-long careers. No one can learn digital storytelling in a semester. Mastering Dreamweaver and Flash isn’t very future-friendly, and having a single mid-level “Online Journalism” course offered as an elective does more harm than good. We should be teaching code in all of our journalism courses — each semester, each year, until graduation.
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