Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hark! The age of the multitasker is at hand

The best discussions are had over a mug or two of the cold brew — or in my case, a cold lemonade. A few days ago a group of us were taking stock of the lessons the recession taught us. They are myriad, and many will be acted upon, while others are swept under the rug only to emerge the next time it’s pulled from under our feet.
Journalism in all its garbs has been badly hit by the global downturn. Newspapers shrunk, TV channels got all fluffy to fill time slots, and the Internet? Well it just chugged along as usual.
If there’s one lesson that towers over all others, it’s that the second decade of the 21st Century will be the Decade of the Multitasker (men are going to have hard time). Gone are the days of specialization. In journalism especially, you’ve got to now know how to do a number of things: Reporters should be able to edit, Editors should be able to design pages, page designers should be able to write, and photographers should be able to do all of the above.
Having said that, we still haven’t seemed to have got the message. In my field, for instance, photographers still believe that their only job is to take a picture. They’re wrong. Not only must they now be able to take a picture, but their caption must put it in context, and they should be able to write a report if required.
This is also the decade where specialized journalists will battle for their places with citizens, and those from other fields (many copywriters can give today’s journalists a run for their money, as can creative photographers).
It’s all down to calculations. Am I getting bang for my buck? As advertising revenue shrinks and staff strengths whittle down to lean mean machines, the question of sending a photographer specifically to cover the five days that comprise a test match takes on a whole new answer. Can I afford to spend Rs10,000 on the assignment? The photo editor must ask himself. Or would I be better of using wire pictures, or a cheaper freelancer?
However, if my photographer can not only take photographs but also file a copy from the stadium then the answer’s a no-brainer…I’m going to send my man.
With the clamour, around the world, for visual journalists, it is also imperative that photographers visualize their photograph on a page, and be able to design that page if need be.
No longer can Indian journalists be content to do their jobs, and only their jobs. Across sectors knowledge is beginning to rule. The knowledge to do more than is expected of you; the knowledge to fill in across job profiles; the knowledge to write, edit, photograph and design (or at least three out of four).
Indian journalism is about 12 years behind the West. We watch now as their print industry crumbles. Ours may too, unless we heed their warnings and learn from their mistakes. We must look to the Web, whip our journalists into shape and expect only excellence. If we want to thrive than nothing less will do.

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