Editorial and commercial: Part of a journalists job description

John Slattery picked up on a job ad at the MEN for two community reporters. Great stuff. But commenting on the job description, he points out:

In a sign of the times, the ad also says: “The ability to identify editorial and commercial opportunities is key” as well as an excellent knowledge “of contemporary social media and a solid understanding of multimedia gathering”.

I wish I had that with me yesterday when I talked to third-year students about convergence. I talked about how convergence contributed to the problems paying for journalism (both consumer and provider).

I mentioned how this issue was not a rarified one, distant from the journalistic process.  Its going to have a very real impact, especially as hyperlocal grows. And, of course process,will have to change to accept that.

To illustrate that point I used a quote from ‘godfather of hyperlocal’ Rick Waghorn talking to The Independent about the nervousness of journalists when it comes to ‘things commercial’

They really don’t like the idea of knocking on the door and asking for an advert. Fascinating that those same journalists will knock on a door after a teenage boy is killed in a road accident. They see that as part of their journalistic DNA. Ask that same journalist to knock on the door and ask for a ten pound a week advert and its ‘that’s not my job’.  I think it will be their job on a level. Certainly on that local level anyway. We have to master new skills and from mastering new skills there will come a demand for new tools.

I pithily commented that in the future would have to do a death knock and add that for 10 quid you’d could do a really nice job on a obituary.

That’s a step too far, I know. But maybe the job ad goes some way to proving both of us right (and what many of us already know) the economics of news is everyones business, especially  journalists.

2 Replies to “Editorial and commercial: Part of a journalists job description”

  1. Hi Andy. I think this is one of those shades of grey issues. I suspect there are very few journalists who haven’t thought to themselves ‘why aren’t the ad team selling to them?’ when passing a business or hearing of something which could make an ad. But how many journalists pass those leads on? Increasingly, that is becoming more and more commonplace. That’s all the MEN job ad is reflecting, I think. A reporter who is out and about should spot things which could be interesting for the commercial team. A reporter selling the advert would inevitably bring conflict of interest issues with it, so in general newsrooms I think there has to be a distinction between spotting the opportunity and selling the ads, especially so in business journalism.

  2. Thanks David

    Sometimes I think those shades of grey are actually smokescreens to distract from the inevitable but new thinking (especially when it’s as ingrained as the paper wall between ads and editorial) takes time to bed in. It is a shift in thinking and one that needs handling especially when it comes to how leads and stuff are handled (unions etc0 and how sales make similar moves to engage with digital. It will find it’s feet

    So, I certainly don’t see anything wrong with whats being asked for in the ad. It’s the reality of the way the things are and, as you say, not a huge leap in thinking. It perfectly illustrated the changing employment landscape our students are pitching in to.

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