Young reporters talk shop

By Vickie Laliotis

EDMONTON — Journalism is in a constant state of change, and success depends on one’s ability to adapt to new technology and expectations, a panel of young reporters recently told students at Grant MacEwan University.

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(Left to right) Jasmine Franklin, Brittney Le Blanc, Scott Lilwall, Laurie Callsen and Catherine Szabo spoke to a group of journalism students at Grant MacEwan University's Centre for the Arts and Communication on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. Photograph by Shaamini Yogaretnam.

Five twenty-something reporters employed across the province spoke to MacEwan’s journalism class on Dec. 14 about their views on the shift.

“I have a love affair with the newspaper,” said Edmonton Sun reporter Jasmine Franklin, 22. “My heart is in print and it always will be, so I hope it will stick around.”

Franklin has adapted to the growing demands of the job by adding web, TV and multimedia production to her repertoire.

She is not alone.

“Multimedia journalists are going to be key,” said iNews 880 reporter Brittney Le Blanc, 26. “You have to know how to do everything these days; one trick ponies are a thing of the past.”

Journalists are now expected to file stories for both print and the web, provide photographs, create audio and video features and build their social networks, all in a days work.

“Online is where journalism is going, so you need to have all those different skills and be able to figure things out,” said Lloydminster Source reporter Catherine Szabo, 22.

With the rise of online news comes an increase in the number of bloggers and citizen journalists, which the panel unanimously agreed was a positive thing.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more news entrepreneurs,” said Camrose Canadian reporter Laurie Callsen, 21. “It’s so easy to do the whole citizen journalism piece, and there’s no reason why journalists and citizen journalists can’t band together and help each other out.”

The panel advised students to pursue all avenues of the industry, especially its more technical aspects.

“If you have an interest in programming and web design, focus on it and learn it because that’s what places need now,” said CBC Radio Edmonton reporter Scott Lilwall, 26. “There are a lot of people out there who don’t even know what that stuff is yet, so there’s a real need for people who have those skills.”

Regardless of which avenue journalists choose to pursue, the most important thing is that they establish themselves as reliable sources, Callsen said.

“You have to fight to show your audience that you’re a credible source, regardless of whether you’re working online or not,” she said.

Panelists cautioned students to remember that regardless of the medium used, news writing is an art form above all else.

“Journalism isn’t just about information, it’s storytelling. Nobody wants to just read point form information,” Lilwall said.

Shaamini Yogaretnam and a few others in the class live-tweeted the panel’s appearance. Here is Shaamini’s Storify summary of the tweets: