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Tom Meagher


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Two skills for the future

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing in recent years about the bleak future of journalism in general and of newspapers in particular.

There are two skills that I believe are now indispensable in the field. Any journalist who won’t begin to embrace them is simply not ready for the future of the business. What are they? Computer-assisted reporting and Spanish (or any other second language, for that matter).

Very few news organizations or journalism programs have invested resources into teaching their journalists these skills. How are you supposed to learn them, then? DIY!

Not everyone has the time or money to attend one of IRE’s excellent training sessions. Thankfully people like my colleague Christopher Schnaars at The Record have pulled together some resources for you to learn on your own (stage whisper: thanks to Depth Reporting for pointing this out). Schnaars has a great, four-part course on learning to use the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet program. This is not C++ GUI programming. These are basic skills that every reporter in the newsroom can and should master. Do yourself a favor and work through Schnaar’s lessons. You’ll find them endlessly helpful in your reporting and editing. If you want to keep going after that, then the Reporter’s Cookbook will point you to the help you need.

Personally, I’ve got the CAR skills, and now I’m turning my attention to learning a new language. Thank you, Clifton High School’s adult education night classes. You should look at night schools and community colleges in your area for similarly-affordable options. I’m about a third of the way through an elementary Spanish class. To gauge my progress, you can see this short exchange I wrote myself:

“¿Como esta?” “No rapido, pero de acuerda.”

If my very, very rudimentary Spanish is off the mark, which it likely is, allow me to translate.

“How is it?” (meaning my progress in learning Spanish) “Not fast, but OK.”

You’ve got to learn to walk before you can run. Good luck.