CNN on the hunt for all-platform journalists

I got an email earlier today from a former CCNMA, now NAHJ, acquaintance detailing a new type of position open at several CNN bureaus. Check this out:

The CNN All Platform Journalist initiative is a bold effort to double the footprint for CNN U.S. presence to 20 cities in 2009. The project goal is to position CNN in more places across the U.S. with the latest technologies, clearer direction and a renewed focus of editorial resources to reflect the demands of CNN’s rapidly growing platforms. With this initiative, CNN will deploy journalists fully devoted to multimedia storytelling. All Platform Journalists will create steadfast pathways across the country; developing content, writing pieces, visual storytelling and producing interactive elements with CNN’s digital components in mind.

Ideal candidates should be experienced in field and package producing, writing copy for television and internet new outlets, shooting with high-definition cameras, editing and transmission technologies and proven track records for flourishing in isolated, non-traditional newsroom environments.

The successful candidate will be an experienced journalist with a demonstrated ability to work in all environments-collaborative, fast paced, internet/web, and as an individual contributor. CNN is searching for self-starters, self-motivated and driven individuals. All Platform Journalists will be expected to research stories and gathers news event in designated regions, as well as generate ideas and content for all platforms of CNN. The APJ will reach out to community leaders, newsmakers, and city officials in the region to build contacts and sources in the region.

They’re looking to fill openings in Philadelphia, Raleigh, Seattle, Columbus, Houston, Las Vegas and Phoenix. If you’re looking to apply, you should send an email to CNN’s recruiter, and also apply at

Obviously, I think we all knew that jobs like this were going to become more common and more fashionable as newspapers and TV newscasts continue their death spiral and online becomes more important. But its still a trend I don’t like.

Did I surprise you by taking a position against all-platform journalists? Heheh. I’m a big believer in the saying “a Jack of all trades is the master of none.” And its my opinion that if we continue this trend toward pushing journalists to know how to do everything, then we’re guaranteeing that journalism as we know it — you know, that idealistic mission to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable — will die.

Look. I don’t think its possible for someone to know everything about one thing. Journalists in general are already required to know a lot about a lot of things. Most front-line reporters have to be ready to jump from a school board meeting (and believe me, I’m sure that even in the same state, school districts differ on certain things) to an immigration protest to a water board issue. On a more national level, like what we would imagine CNN would be doing, a reporter would have to know who Roman Polanski is, why governors need so much money from the president-elect and what a felony charge is — if we’re talking about the day I had today. Heheh. Anyway, reporters already have to know so much about so many things, and be ready to explain, at a 6th grade level, to the masses what it all means, and you want him and her to do it in a blog, in a video report, in a podcast, a printed (OK, onscreen) news story and have still pictures? Are you nuts?

Anyone who has followed my blog and my career for even just the past year knows how just how I entrenched I am online. I am an online believer and I’ve been evangelizing for the past 10 years. But this is ridiculous. No wonder no one can last in journalism, if that’s the expectation.

Let’s just talk about me, for a second. (It is my blog, after all.) I’ve been blogging for 10+ years. I can build websites. I can write a passable story. I mostly understand civil and criminal court cases and can write a passable story about them. I have a more-than-casual understanding of California government and California education systems. But if you were to ask me to write stories, do a blog post, then record a podcast, then shoot some video and some stills, then piece it all together — I would probably go mad within six months, if it took me that long. Shoot, I nearly went mad just being a print reporter and keeping an unrelated blog on the side for three years.

I understand there are some people who can do more than one thing, and its good to use those skills. Take Bryan Frank. (We were discussing this earlier.) He can shoot compelling video and edit. He can ask the right questions. Later on, he started taking still pictures and blogging — as a hobby. But if you tried to start making him write news stories, do podcasts and do video reports (not just shooting the video, but actually doing the report as a package) — the work on the platforms he’s not familiar with will not be great (sorry, Bryan, but I’m just saying!) and the work on what he actually does well will suffer.

At my station, we also have two really tech savvy reporters — Dave Malkoff and Rich DeMuro. Both of them do video reports (meaning, actual stand ups, which is not as easy as you might think, people) and are very web savvy. Dave blogs regularly and has great, really entertaining video reports and actually shoots extremely good photos. Rich can write pretty good stories that are related to his video reports and link them (you’d be surprised who doesn’t do this). But can they write as many good headlines as I or my work spouse Alan (one of the best writers I know) can? Can they write a story as compelling? Probably not.

And, as Bryan pointed out, when you take someone like Dave Bryan, with a specialized and important beat like politics that requires a lot of time and effort, can you really expect them to twitter, blog, podcast, write news stories? Not so much.

I know news orgs are trying to save money and get as much done as possible, but please, stop killing the industry. With the way we’re making everyone learn everything, everyone is going to end up knowing nothing.

One thought on “CNN on the hunt for all-platform journalists

  1. kat

    I respect your stance. However, as a journalist myself, I understand that I must change with the times if I want to continue working in the industry, or I’ll be left behind or unemployed in the near future. It is an awful lot of work, a big skill set to ask of one person and probably not well paid (i.e., three salaries), but I think it’s much better to be on the front line than in the unemployment line.

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