Kevin Anderson: 12 takeaways for J-School students

Today my Reporting II class at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) benefitted from a 30 minute Skype conversation with the international digital journalist Kevin Anderson.

Kevin has almost 20 years of cutting edge journalism experience to his work. His resume includes being the BBC’s first online journalist based outside of the UK, developing a blogging strategy for BBC News, being The Guardian’s first blogs editor and then as its digital research editor, as well as work for the Media Development Investment Fund, Al Jazeera, Reed Business Information, Czech TV and CNN International. Most recently, he was Executive Editor of the Sheboygan Press, Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter, Oshkosh Northwestern and Fond du Lac Reporter at Gannett Wisconsin Media.

Here are 12 lessons I took away from the conversation:

  1. Students should undertake as many internships as they can. This will enable you to come in a a higher level (position and pay) when you graduate.
  2. The market has always been in a state of change. The current turmoil in the sector is nothing new.
  3. Network like a demon, using Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and every tool at your disposal.
  4. Journalists need to be able to understand – and demonstrate – the ability to engage communities.
  5. This is because “time and attention is scarce.” Attention is not. You must be able to win and develop and audience.
  6. You may be adept at social in your personal life, but translating these skills for professional purposes is different.
  7. Similarly each platform is different and will need a different voice and style (e.g. Snapchat versus Facebook).
  8. Innovation in this space can come from smaller teams e.g. Sports drove Periscope among some Gannett titles, before being embraced more widely.
  9. J-School students should understand how to use analytics, to understand where audiences are coming from and how they engage with your content.
    We have access to so much audience data there’s no need to “throw the [social] spaghetti at the wall” and see “what sticks”.
  10. Podcasting is a key skill for future graduates to learn. We’re seeing an explosion of niche podcasts on topics such as Sports, Tech, Fashion and Internet Culture as well as hard news.
  11. VR may help to enable us to tell stories in new and different ways, but it’s not going to be mainstream anytime soon.
  12. Drone journalism is an area Kevin tips to become big in the future.
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