The unbelievable list of skills required by a modern journalist

The unbelievable list of skills required by a modern journalist

The changing media landscape has received more than its fair share of attention.

We’ve all read about how gains in online ads have not even come close to offsetting losses in print revenue. And journalists are feeling the pressure too, as publishers have passed on the need to do more with less.

At Revue we wanted to know how this shift in the publishing industry affected the relationship of journalists with their audience.

Through a survey we found that journalists have established a much stronger personal brand and communicate with their audience in more direct ways such as personal Twitter accounts or personal newsletters.

To be successful, journalists need to be visible.

And to to be visible, they need to master a rather daunting list of skills.

The survey gave us a glimpse of what journalists are being asked to do through an open question we asked to get some context. We asked “What new skill set does a modern journalist need in the social media age?” and found a list that is both long and broad.

The change does not seem to be fundamental. Journalists still need to be able to do research, know their audience, get to the gist of a topic, and tell a compelling story.

But to do so they now need to become experts at a much wider range of tools and techniques.


By far the most important new skill is the ability to engage with the audience and be social media savvy.

Journalists need to be able to build up an audience and keep their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles up to date. On the social channels they need to be responsive and even deal with criticism aimed at them personally.


Crafting headlines that people want to click on and writing keyword heavy texts are contentious topics. But their importance is undisputed.

17.1 percent of journalists highlighted the need for copy that is optimized for search engines and algorithmic news feeds.


Headline writing has always been an art useful to journalists. But design and especially video were considered separate disciplines.

That seems to no longer be the case with 15.4 percent of journalists finding visual design skills important. The person who writes the story now also needs to take photos, manipulate them with Photoshop and even editing video footage.


It doesn’t stop at design. 14.5 percent of journalists mention having acquired technology skills. There are programming skills such as HTML, CSS or JavaScript. There is platform knowledge like WordPress and other CMS's. And a whole range of specialized tools such as web scraping or social APIs.


Distribution used to be the domain of the publishers. But that has changed and 12 percent of modern journalists report now being asked to assist with the distribution of their articles.

The required online marketing skills include using hashtags, picking the right time to publish or reaching out to promoters.

Search/fact checking

Search is another example of a traditional journalism skill that has shifted over the years.

In the old days, there was an archive with trained staff. Today, 10.3% of journalists consider a good knowledge of search essential. This includes the ability to do advanced Google searches or geo-targeted searches on Twitter.


Journalists not only need to master new skills, but deliver results faster than ever before.

Deadlines are tight and publishing schedules demanding as publishers recognize the need for volume to stand out in crowded social media and Google’s vast index. This prompted 9.4 percent of journalists to cite producing more output is an important new skill.


Journalism is becoming more numbers focused. This applies to using statistics in stories as well as to assessing which articles or topics to focus on.

And makes statistics an important new skill according to 5.1 percent of journalists.

Think opportunity! The good news is that mastering these skills can have enormous impact. 

So brush up on these key skills and equip yourself with some handy tools to become part of the journalism elite of the coming years.

Mark Schiefelbein is head of growth at personal newsletter tool Revue. Personal newsletters are the type of email that people actually do want to open. A great way for journalists and PR pros alike to connect directly with their audience. Mark has worked with tech startups from the US and Europe since the dawn of the web and enjoys discussing the latest trends with founders, investors and the media. Follow him on Twitter.

Photo via Pixabay

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