YDR Insider

Part of the USA Today Network

Newsroom culture of excellence, foundational document No. 9: Resetting job descriptions to digital

This is a generic job description for journalists at the York Daily Record/Sunday News. These descriptions have been retooled from a print-centric emphasis to digitally oriented functions. A problem with this: As soon as they’re issued, they become dated with the wealth of new digital tools coming available. Perhaps now more than ever, such language as ‘duties subject to change’ is appropriate.

Ever hear of general managers talking at National Football League draft time about picking the best athlete available.

That sometimes comes when no position players – quarterbacks or running backs or linebackers – are available. But sometimes, it’s a philosophy of teams that are looking for more athleticism – great athletes who can do a number of things to help a team win.

We think about that  “best athlete available” concept often in the hiring process in this growing digital age. And we often apply it.

We look for journalists who have the ability and motivation to work on the news desk, write sports or update our website when news breaks.

We call them multi-platform journalists because they are at home writing and editing on the various platforms available today – for print and the Web or communicating with the public on Facebook. And journalists of such skills will be ready to adapt to new technology  in the future.

A multi-platform business journalist might emphasize personal finance and manufacturing. But he or she must ply their craft in print, on the Web, via social media and maybe even write a piece for our glossy magazine “Smart.”

To set these expectations, we have re-written job descriptions to reflect a digital first environment.

Which leads me to an illustration that might help explain what much of this digital first discussion has been about in this series of  foundational documents.

The other day, I  was working with a talented journalist who had gathered information about a terrible motor vehicle accident story. This is where the concepts of multiple platforms and versatility come in. She had written part of the story, was then compiling past reporting and faced editing the whole thing.

She had questions. I’m on deadline. What do I do first? Put it on the Web or then put it in the paper and risk being late? Or put it on the Web after the newspaper is out?

I coached her to go Web first, and I told her I would work with the pressroom to ensure the breaking story got into the newspaper.

She soon put the story on the Web.

And made print deadline.

A “best journalist available” I want on my team any day.

Note to readers

This series of foundational documents is designed to show readers that much thought and work goes into setting a foundation for our journalists to do their work. Fortunately, our journalists are integrally involved in pouring that foundation.

We appreciate your comments or feedback on this post or any of the previous eight documents. Meanwhile, if you want to see how the news industry talks about themes in this post, check out Digital First Media’s Steve Buttry’s post: “How a Digital First approach guides a journalist’s work” A layman interested in journalism or news industry issues might want to bookmark this blog.