Go to the Web, young journalist!

Anthony Moor is Associate Managing Editor/Online at the Orlando Sentinel, and editor of OrlandoSentinel.com. He also serves on the board of directors of the Online News Association.

So ten years into the Internet revolution, you are beginning a career in journalism. Odds are that means you are looking for a job in either print or TV.

What’s wrong with this picture?

One major newspaper chain was just frog-marched to the auction block by grimfaced money managers. The others have watched their stock price slide for two solid years like a metro daily tossed onto a pitched roof.

Network television doesn’t even have all its anchor chairs filled — forget about a clear mission. The cable outlets have hired talk-show screamers and now follow car chases and kidnap mysteries “live.” Much of local TV long ago gave up the ghost.

Maybe it’s time to consider the Web.

After a long freeze brought about by the dot-com crash and 9/11, Web editors are hiring and Web operations are expanding again. Safa Rashtchy, a senior research analyst at the securities firm Piper Jaffray, recently predicted that online advertising will reach its tipping point in mid-2006. That’s prompting news organizations to realign their resources to focus more on Web journalism.

What’s more, for a discipline with decades of tradition and well-defined standards of practice, there is a sense of excitement and rejuvenation about journalism as it is being practiced on the Web today. The rules are still being written, so the practitioners, by and large, are following their own muse as they explore new ways to communicate news and information.

Innovations abound

We rolled out a blog at OrlandoSentinel.com for this year’s Winter Olympics, and our three columnists became diarists. They wrote about Big Macs, getting lost on the media bus and the fact that Florida’s top football draft pick had given up the gridiron for figure skating.

OK, the last one was a fabrication, but they did own up to it in their post. They wanted to know whether anyone was reading their blog and would comment. The readers did — heatedly.

We thought our bloggers would write about sports. But set loose with a new writing form in a two-way medium that allows readers to talk back, they invented something new.

“I enjoyed my first blog-o-rama,” veteran sports columnist David Whitley wrote to me when he returned from Italy. “If that’s part of the next generation of newspapers, I could have a lot of fun. Unless I get fired first, I guess.”

Our other online efforts are making newsroom staff happy as well. Sentinel photographer Ed Sackett practically crowed over the opportunity to capture the sound and movement of roosters at a county fair contest recently. Online producers Debra Minor and Kris Hey relish scooping TV, radio and the Associated Press with news called in from the field by Sentinel staff.

It is true that at the major news organizations, much of the Web work to date has focused on repurposing content from the legacy newsroom for a digital audience. But that is changing. In the same way that early television struggled to develop from radio-on-TV to something different, so is Web journalism.

Some are striking out in exceptionally creative directions. A young broadcaster in Britain melds magazine-style presentation with grainy, cinema-vérité video to create investigative productions of amazing depth and presence. A Chicago journalist-programmer melds public police data with Google maps to present an on-demand visual map of crime in your neighborhood. A pair of newspaper veterans dubs themselves “Baristas” and serves up a mix of community-contributed news and their own wry sense of humor to suburban New Jersey.

Preparing for the new job market

The privilege to innovate like this may come around only once in a lifetime. If you talk to those of us doing news on the Web, you’ll learn that we believe the Internet is finally beginning to deliver on its promise to transform journalism — but we’re also not sure what that transformation will bring. So this is your opportunity to shape the future.

Interestingly, the skills you need are just what you have been learning. A soon-to-be released study finds that online managers are primarily looking for detail-oriented collaborators capable of editing and copyediting, not technical producers. (The survey was prepared by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, in conjunction with the Online News Association, and will be published on the ONA website in the next few weeks.)

So what could you do right now at school to give you an edge with Web editors? When I examine resumes of recent graduates, I’m looking for the journalism skills first, specifically news judgment. Have you worked as an editor at your college newspaper? Do you have clips that demonstrate a clear hard-news focus, in the classic, inverted-pyramid writing style? I want journalists who want to be editors.

Next, are you Internet literate? No newspaper editor would hire an applicant who didn’t know the function of the A-section. No TV news director would hire someone who couldn’t pick out a sound bite or define the term “B-roll.” While we don’t need code monkeys, we do need people who understand the unique attributes of the Web as it pertains to journalism.

So, have you built a Web page as part of a student project or on your own? Do you know basic HTML? Do you work on the student newspaper website? Do you frequent Internet news sites? Do you use an RSS reader? Do you podcast? Did you ask to shadow the Web producers for a few days at your last internship? An affinity for our medium is essential.

I also need people who think in multimedia. So if you’re a broadcast major, take print courses, or visa versa. Do a Web project. Have you ever storyboarded a reporting effort for a Flash presentation? (In truth, we don’t do much Flash at our shop, and you’ll find that’s normal at news websites, so Flash skills are usually a bonus, not a requirement.) You have to know how to take anything that can be digitized and present it in a uniquely compelling way for the Web.

This is essential because you will be mentoring reporters from your legacy newsroom who need insight into how to present their work for a Web audience. You must be the one who knows that source documentation can make a deep, rich Web piece or database. You should know how to write a TV-style voiceover script to marry to photos for a narrated slide show. You must dream up the idea to take the sales tax data a reporter compiled and make an interface that lets individuals put in their own grocery bill to find out in which county they get the biggest break.

Do you keep a blog? Why not? There has never been an easier way to publish your journalism for an audience. So become a journalist online. Blog your hobby or your summer in Europe — like a reporter, not an opinion columnist. An understanding of how the blogosphere intersects with news is increasingly important as we tackle the two-way nature of the Internet today. (One caveat: Your MySpace musings may make you a blogging expert, but it doesn’t qualify as journalism. In fact, you can count on us finding that frat party confession and photo en déshabillé, so ask yourself whether that’s the image you wish to project when seeking a job.)

There never has been a better time to get into Web journalism. We are making money, we are hiring, and we are actively searching for new, innovative ideas. After ten years, there are no veterans in this field. This is your chance to be among the first.

About Anthony Moor

Anthony Moor is Managing Editor for Local at Yahoo! in Sunnyvale, California. In that role he is helping to build out the company's local news capabilities.

Previously, he served as Deputy Managing Editor/Interactive at The Dallas Morning News where he helped grow dallasnews.com traffic 186% in two years. In 2008 the site was honored with RTNDA


  1. Nice article, Anthony. It needed to be said. But what about internships? It’s darned difficult for an online journalism student to find a paying internship, especially in Florida. They have to pay rent, you know, and they really can’t afford to go three months without pay.

  2. Anthony, great article. And from the skillset you described, I’m your girl, trained ‘specially for the job by USC Annenberg’s best. One problem, though. From what I can tell, you are still a rare breed of employer, at least judging from a job conference I went to not long ago where the revelation that I’m an online journalism major prompted a variety of curious responses — not all of them good.

    Or am I being cynical?

  3. Hi Anthony,

    Great overview of skills needed. I am “on the other side” as they say here = I am in PR but what you describe is exactly what our PR students need to learn too. Not at all the case today here in Europe (maybe except the UK).

    But there is hope and a bright future for both professions I am sure.

  4. Let’s not forget that in today’s day and age it’s entirely possible for a group of j school buddies to band together and start their own thing … online after graduation (heck, before graduating even.)

    Chances of failure are still high, but not as high as they were 10 years ago, imho.

  5. Robert MacMillan says:

    As someone who was an online journalist for eight years, I enjoyed your article. I am curious why you didn’t say you needed someone who wants to be a reporter.

    You are looking for people who are, in the end, editors and — if you want to look at it in a negative way — packagers of people’s news.

    What about reporters? Will you need those? People who work online-only? Besides blogs, I mean.

    Your ideas are great for people who don’t have much desire to be a reporter, but for those who do, is their only option the newsroom with few open positions and buyouts and layoffs abounding? What is the student reporter to do? Hope they get a job at the paper? Or should they aspire to reporting and writing online journalism?

    Thanks for the article!

  6. Tom Grubisich says:

    Anthony Moor lists many skills and talents he and the orlandosentinel.com are looking for among editorial job candidates just getting out of school. But I didn

  7. As one of these “young web journalist” types, I have to say you are right. I saw my friends in print struggling to find jobs…but with my skillset (that I thank UNC-CH for), I had something to go on…granted, I also benefited from a program that was tailored to give me skills as a journalist and visual communicator, so I gained exposure and experience to photo, video, audio, and graphics as well as reporting/editing…which is something online journalists need to at least understand and be open to learning.
    In addition, though, I have to comment that our field is one of internships…I had 3 internships and a part-time position before I got my current position…so I encourage anyone interested in online journalism (or even those in print) to get internships while in school – there are plenty of positions if you are willing to put in your time. There are also quite a few paid internships out there if you look hard enough and plug your professors for opportunities. I got my internships while in school through professors.

  8. This would seem to be a good argument for young journalists-to-be to practice their craft on local citizen journalism sites to build up a portfolio of online articles that are well-written and researched.

  9. Robert, Your reaction is exactly what I struggle with as a journalism student who is soon to be in the job market. I

  10. Great article, and especially insightful comments and reactions. It seems to me to be incredibly difficult to combine reporting and multimedia skills into a full-time job. I agree with the community outreach comment above — integrating the audience into the interactivity of an online publication is essential for enabling a market for original online content.

    The majority of opportunities I’ve encountered have indeed presented themselves more as editing for the people, as someone said above, than original content production. This is evident even in the most highly circulated online publications, where the content is rarely more than a repackaged AP or Reuters story.

    This article, certainly does provide some hope that the newspaper industry is beginning to wise up to the potential, and in my opinion, imminent future of multimedia online journalism as a primary vehicle for both reporting, production and profit. The program mentioned above in the UK, with video is also very intriguing, and it seems many universities and orgs are also more willing to put money into online-based reporting. evidence being that Stanford western enterprise reporting fellowship that just landed in my inbox (via poynter).

  11. Thanks for the ‘ping’ Anthony. Haven’t been called young in a while [ 18 years in the media] I guess the cosmetic cream’s working :), but not for long. . . long hours lecturing hmmm.

    I agree that the ‘cut and paste’ generation journalist is living through one of the most exciting periods in journalism. A digital reformation of sorts to rival the inception of newspapers, circa 17th C., perhaps?

    http://www.Viewmagazine.tv merely touches one void. Story telling, technically, has got easier and the point where 8mb net connections [ the data rate of tv] becomes the norm, even exceeds it, will throw up all sorts of new paradigms. A second dot com boom fuelled by the likes of Adrian Holavaty’s ChicagoCrime.org. Sublime stuff.

    Perhaps one of the most interesting projects I am involved in which falls in line with your informative piece has been working with one of the UK’s most respected press bodies, The Press Association, turning newspaper journalists into videojournalists.

    If interested, Editors web log have a q and a
    and the films on http://www.viewmagazine.tv/8days.html

    In three weeks, they (hull daily mail. PA and Liverpool Echo) journalist) learned to shoot their own stories online and increase traffic to their site. Will there at some point be a defined line that seperates TV, newspaper and online journalists?

    It’s a very different place – this future.

  12. A very good article. But people who are sitting on the other end of the globe may think it shold be more global in approch and presentation.

  13. It seems to me that news organizations that want to land these emerging online journalists ought to be sure to package reporting opportunities into their new media production positions. The more students can do to develop their Internet skills, the more desirable they will be to employers. And the more employers give graduates the opportunity to report as well as produce online packages, the more graduates will pursue those positions.

  14. Great advice, Anthony, but you missed one key area: VIDEO.

    Video is quickly becoming just as important as text reporting on TV sites, and as you know, it’s a major component of print sites.

    Here at KING5.com, our web team edits video. And everyone who wants to work for a TV website should 1) have an eye for good video and 2) know how to edit.

  15. Robert et. al., regarding the need for online reporters, it’s correct to question whether there’s a need for them. We require reporters who can ‘do’ online work, but I’m not sure we need ‘online only reporters.’ Instead, we’re actually looking for our first newspaper reporter who has a talent for multimedia journalism. Lisa Cianci, our AME/Business has just such an opening for someone who will produce swift copy for the Web, multimedia and print articles. (Check out the listing on JournalismJobs.com.) But I think that’s the model we’ll see in the future — reporters will have a craft specialty… print, Web, TV… in addition to a beat specialty. But all will be expected to be able to contribute to all forms of journalism now and then. So if you’re a new graduate, your ability to demonstrate your skills on various platforms will enhance your viability in the marketplace, and possibly land you a job that’s only now being conceived by media outlets.

  16. Thanks for this terrific piece Anthony. I’ve spent the last seven years working in a niche English-language magazine market in Egypt. I’m in London now, being groomed in the intricacies of cyber journalism by the very same young British journalist you refer to in your article, David Gyimah. He sure keeps us busy.

    I must admit that as a journo and an editor, I never took our online “version” seriously. It was cumbersome, technical and only meant extra work that didn’t necessarily translate into higher salaries or wider circulation.

    To use your words, that was because our approach to the web was based on repurposing content from the legacy newsroom for a digital audience. Despite providing in-depth, comprehensive coverage, it never engaged me in the same way as I enjoyed reading other websites, and certainly nothing like even rereading the printed magazine. Only when I took this online journalism course at Westminster University, did I realize why.

    We just got it wrong. The loads of copy that worked really well in print, was abject failure online because the rules of this new medium are completely different. Online reading habits are different, concentration spans vary and so do expectations. Readers/users will no longer be satisfied with “traditional” text but expect podcasts and video coverage.

    Journalists who don’t want to miss the train to the future must now be Jacks-of-all-trades learning to do audio and video simply to maintain an audience, small as it may be. We did this practically in a group project where we created our own multimedia website (you can see it at postscriptmagazine.co.uk).

    I do agree with one of the commentators that you must emphasize the need for journalists who want to be reporters, not only editors. This cut-and-paste generation won’t last long in the face of constantly innovated technology, which can do that in a matter of minutes.

    The power of new media lies as much in providing alternative, original content as it does on the technological boom. It’s the only way the media can be truly democratized.

  17. Christina Dierkes says:

    I don’t disagree with the basic idea behind the article. Online media are important, and there is a need for people who can handle the requirements of web journalism. But a few of the more practical considerations raised by previous comments really struck me as important.
    Mindy makes a good point when she mentions paid internships, or more precisely the lack thereof. What about students who have to use summers to make money that will get them through most of their academic year? An unpaid internship may be a great resume builder, but I understand that students would rather flip burgers and make money than write and edit at an unpaid internship. And most paid internships only pay enough to finance the internship, which is almost guaranteed to be in another city, unless the student lives in a larger city. In the end, the student has an internship and no debt, but also no additional income. So if editors are looking for experienced entry level candidates, I think it’s important that they make internships more attractive, be it in online or traditional media.
    Also, what if a student likes writing, not editing? Is their online career doomed? Or is there a chance that a good writer/reporter can get those (admittedly awesome) jobs you talk about in your letter?

  18. Morgan Staley says:

    As a public relations student and someone who is new to the online journalism field, this article was very interesting for me to think about. I thought that Rania and others brought up a good point that online reading habits are much different than print reading habits. I think this is partly because we need to think about who the online consumers are. The generation growing up today probably makes up a majority of the online consumers. This group is extremely technologically savvy and they are on the computer constantly. They also seem to have shorter attention spans, causing a need for online content to differ from print media if it this field is going to continue to grow. As a part of this generation, I feel that online journalism should supplement regular newspapers, not always just use shovel-ware. When I think about what catches my attention as an online consumer, it is usually the use of multimedia, such as podcasts, or some type of original news content that I would not find in print or that would add to the print media I already read.

    In addition, from a PR perspective, I thought that the idea of combining community outreach with online journalism was very interesting. As is shown from this blog, all of the comments following the article add so much content and many insights. If community members were taught how to blog and comment on online news, then they would not only add content to the topic, but they would be able to voice their opinions and feel like they were being heard. The news outlets would also benefit by finding out what interests the community.

  19. Jordan Robinson says:

    It’s true as Anthony wrote, “The privilege to innovate like this may come around only once in a lifetime,” but with this amazing innovation, editors, reporters, bloggers, content managers and others need to to keep in clear sight the traditional higher principles of journalism and how innovation in the online realm can help journalists and media outlets around the world stay true to them.

    And the online revolution is not ncessarily a domestic affair, rather as can be seen by comments from individuals in Europe and the Middle East, it is an international one. This international spirit represents an important facet of the new journalism education in that media is not confined to a city, state, region, or even country anymore, but content and services are available to any person, whether in India or Iceland that has an internet connection.

    We must keep this in mind and see how Web journalism can be a tool of peacefully connecting people and encouraging international dialogue and understanding between cultures, ethnicities and religions.

  20. I think the chance to run a news website teaches you to be both a better journalist and a better editor, and it is a kind of internship too, because you stop thinking like a journalism student – you start thinking like a journalist. At least that

  21. Margaret Kostendt says:

    Surely skilled reporters will eventually be as important as good editors in the world of online journalism. Multimedia wizardry and fancy interfaces are “sexy” and obviously have a role, but without a solid, creative story – the kind good reporters provide – a web piece won’t go anywhere, no matter how interactive it is.

  22. Ben Saylor says:

    Good, albeit sobering, article, particularly for someone like me who is a senior in his last quarter and just now taking an online journalism course.
    I have to say I agree with many of the previous posters’ comments about the need for solid reporters in addition to solid editors, and also that good stories should not be lost amid videos and podcasts and downloads and whatnot.
    I guess I’m wondering what options someone in my position has to be more knowledgeable about this field when this will probably my last quarter of college. Are seminars/conferences the way to go, or is there something else out there that I don’t know about?

  23. Jessie Gridley says:

    We have to accept rather than fight where technology has brought us. The online world is now as much of a medium as print. I’ve heard many journalists scold this transformation, but just as print will never be completely abandoned, neither will the online world.

    I will be graduating in June with barely any experience in the online journalism world. That scares me because I feel like employers will be looking at fresh journalists, expecting them to have that cutting edge in the online world. I am not excited about the decline in print media. I am excited about the possibilities of using the internet as a companion to print mediums.

  24. Courtney Scarberry says:

    I’m also a senior journalism student who is taking her first class in online media. This article’s expectations for incoming journalists are a bit scary.

    Online journalism is a wonderful medium because it lacks limitations; one isn’t hindered by word count, space or color/b&w. But online journalists need to be aware of how their readers differ from print readers. Online reading habits are quite different considering the availability and manueverability of a computer. Online readers tend to skim more often and tend to demand more interesting, short material with as much visuals as possible. With this in mind, I agree with another reader’s comments that online and print should supplement each other, instead of battling over supremacy and/or future longevity.

  25. anne jackson says:

    As another senior about to enter the professional market I am a little nervous about the skills you require of a young employee. However journalism is not my major, computers and technology are still very important and those skills along with them will always be important also. Are these technological skills the wave of the future and those that don’t have the certain skills, will they be searching the classifieds to find any job that pays. I think those skills are important, but they are not the only ones that should be focused on.

  26. Meredith Heagney says:

    I understand Anthony Moor’s point that traditional media, such as print and TV, have lost momentum while online is thriving. Still, I don’t think the print and broadcast vs. online debate has to be an either/or thing. Obviously, online sites can offer multimedia a paper never could. By the same token, a paper can give much more text and still be comfortable to read. Online news is obviously more immediate, but I still think print journalism tends to be more thorough. The two should supplement each other. Print organizations need to take their Web sites more seriously, though, that’s for sure. It’s too bad most budgets would never allow a whole separate web staff to ensure that the online component gets the proper attention.

    I, too, am a soon-to-be journalism grad with no online experience. But for some reason, I’m not panicking. I guess I figure that my youth alone will make people assume I “know” computers! Seriously, though, there are always ways to learn, and Moor pointed out that basic journalism skills are still the most important thing.

  27. Kristin Burroughs says:

    The thing that I found most interesting in Moor’s article was the issue of blogs and bloggers. It intrigued me that the newspaper he works for allowed their columnists to become bloggers. It is an interesting concept and one that I think will eventually be a part of every online newspaper. The fact that blogging has become so prevalent in journalism scares me a bit. If this is to be part of the “next generation” as David Whitely said, what are the boundaries of blogging?

    The issue of job security is the first issue that comes to mind when I think of ‘professional’ bloggers. Are there specific stipulations written into their contract saying what they can and can’t do and what determines termination? But if this is the case, how can they really be writing on what they want?

    Also, how can you be sure that what the blogger is writing is their opinion and not the opinion of the company or newspaper that they are writing for? Is it a personal bias or a professional one? Is the writing fact or fiction? What is the basis of its slant? There is also the question of whether you are reading a personal commentary or a professional piece of writing. Is what is being written the ramblings of an employee or is it actually a journalistic endeavor to inform the reader.

    I think that while blogs are an interesting and sometimes informative piece of reading. I don’t think that they are the “next generation” of newspapers or journalists. Just because you are a blogger does not make you a journalist, although it could be something that is done on the side, as with the columnists at Moor’s newspaper. While I do think that blogs will become a part of newspapers, I don’t believe that it will only be done by reporters. I think that there will be blogs of politicians, athletes, celebrities and maybe of ordinary citizens as extras to the newspaper’s subject content.

  28. Sam Stephens says:

    I like that this article suggests not trying to fight the shift toward web-based media. Although adding video clips and links to other stories might not be best for journalistic integrity, it has to be done or readers will look elsewhere. I would add, though, that the number one reason I go online for news (when I go online for news) is the opportunity to comment and have other people read those comments. I guess I’m saying that as online journalists we should aim above all else to provide an interactive experience for our readers. The technology in our hands is no good unless it’s used in this way. I think this is something like what Anthony is saying when he says he (and other editors) want editors, not technical producers.

  29. Kevin Ziegler says:

    Online news outlets are certainly reshaping the economic structure of journalism, however, while traditional print struggles, online journalists need to make the committment now to not fall in the hands of profit-seeking business models when writing for the web. The desire for efficient and attention-grabbing news delivery must not sacrifice the depth of coverage that often separates real news from informative entertainment that characterizes other media forms.

  30. Kristen Perry says:

    I agree with Mr. Moor to a certain extent. I am an aspiring journalist — more specifically an aspiring copy editor — and I worry about the same topics he touched on in his article. But I couldn’t help but feel like the distant subject of this piece. I thought about reporters and editors more than I thought about copy editors and designers when I read through his opinion. Maybe denial is just setting in.

    One thing I have noticed through internships and my experience as the copy chief at our student newspaper is the how the duties of a copy editor are bridging more and more into the online world. How can I as a copy editor better prepare myself for this reality? I wonder how prepared anyone can be for the World Wide Web considering it changes many times within just one day.