Journalism Basics: Skills, and Roles for Convergent Journalists

-Summary of Principles of Convergent Journalism, Chapters 2 & 3

By: Emily Brosious

The essence of basic journalism is the “hard news” approach. This means a journalist provides an account of the event from eyewitnesses, official reports, and hearing/seeing it themselves. It’s best to blend two or three of these information sources.

Journalists must rigorously prepare for interviews and build solid interviewing skills in order to get the best information and quotes for their stories.  They must also consider the parameters of their deadline(s) and source availability when selecting people to interview.

Journalists need to know what about an event makes it newsworthy. Journalists must also be strong writers who know how to tell a story. Grammar, punctuation, correct word usage, and clear organization are integral to this process. Tip: practice, practice, practice, and pay attention to detail.

When covering a story, journalists should first ask themselves, what are the 5w’s & 2h’s? Then they must ask themselves what is the best platform to tell this story (web, print, broadcast, etc.)?

Certain platforms work better for certain stories. Each medium has particular formats, structures, and constraints.

Print stories rely on text and photography to dig into issues and events at some depth.

Radio requires short, colorful audio clips that paint a picture in listener’s minds.

Television uses words and a range of visual content to tell stories.

The Internet combines formats and structures of print, radio, and television and opens up elements of graphic design, hyperlinking, and maximizing story possibilities.

Due to the multi-platform nature of converged journalism, journalists today need to be proficient with writing, editing, photography, video, graphic design, and web design.

Convergent media journalists need not be experts in all forms of reporting, but they must have a working understanding and appreciation for a wide range of reporting mediums and techniques.

In addition to behind-camera proficiency, journalists must know the basics of on-camera performance. Tip: speak clearly and annunciate.

Converged newsrooms have created new roles for journalists including story builders, news flow managers, interactive content designers, social media coordinators and more.

Teamwork and communication are important skills for journalists as well.  In converged newsrooms especially, journalists will want to be able to work with colleagues to utilize overlapping skills among reporters, photographers, and editors.

UNO Charter Network Underfunding Pensions

On Monday, the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund (CTPF) called out the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) charter school system for underreporting employees to the fund. A CTPF independent review of UNO’s pension fund contributions found the UNO network neglected to make pension fund contributions on behalf of more than 90 teachers, and underfunded contributions on behalf of an additional 30 employees.

CTPF’s announcement came the same day as the opening of the charter network’s newest campus, UNO Soccer Academy High School. This is one of the same schools who’s construction was temporarily halted after UNO insider contracting deals surfaced this past April.

All certified personnel employed by CPS and CPS charter schools are required under Illinois law to participate in CTPF in lieu of social security.

The pension fund receives contributions from around 108 CPS charter school operators. UNO, with over 700 teachers and administrators in its system, is the city’s largest network of privately run charter schools and the teacher pensions fund’s second largest employer.

As of 2002, the teachers pension fund was 99.9 percent funded. By 2012 their funding ratio had dropped to just 53.9 percent.

CTPF attributes the $3.2 billion lost since 1995 to diversion of the fund’s dedicated tax levy, Illinois General Assembly-approved pension funding “holidays”, and inadequate employer contributions such as those uncovered within the UNO system.

“These findings demonstrate the reason we’ve undertaken a comprehensive review of charter schools,” said Jay C. Rehak, president of the teacher pensions fund Board of Trustees. “CTPF is a well-managed but underfunded plan. This review will help ensure that the problems we’ve experienced with our primary employer will not spread to other employers.”

CTPF is currently conducting a review of pension contributions at the Noble Network of Charter Schools, another of the the city’s large charter operators.


(This story originally appeared on Chicago Resistance Report)