While preparing for our next staff training session — Taming the 24/7 News Cycle — I came across this quote by Mindy McAdams, a digital media professor/expert at the University of Florida:
So the first step, I think, is to let go of your self-defeating ideas about how you are “not a computer person,” or how “computers don’t like me.” These attitudes are killing you — and your future in journalism.
McAdams offered that advice in 2009, as part of a series of instructional blog posts that she turned into a pamphlet, “Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency.”
It remains as true as ever today. Most newspapers are still trying to make the transition from print-only to a multi-platform world, and the going is very, very slow.
There are, of course, many reasons for that, ranging from diminished resources (layoffs, anyone?) to lack of interest to fear of the unknown.
But it all begins with the failure of too many print journalists to accept the fact that computer skills are as important today as knowing how to type and take notes were back in the heyday of newspapers.
Mindy’s exhortation is harsh. But it’s not clear that anything else will work at this point.
It’s confusing, to say the least, that people whose success depends on curiosity and research can’t take the time to learn basic technical skills that are clearly necessary to do their job.
Here are just a few of those basic skills, in no particular order:
- Using a spreadsheet (Excel, for example)
- Shortening a URL
- Moving or sharing a file via FTP, like Dropbox
There are many others.
But these three have come up recently in our newsroom. If you’re stuck on any one of these three, this might be a good time to go learn them, quick.
And then, open your mind and adopt a culture of learning. It’s the only thing that might save us all.