What’s a journalist’s most important skill?

A group of foundations that fund journalism education recently issued a challenge to America’s journalism schools. They want the schools to adopt a teaching-hospital model that “requires top professionals in residence at universities. It also focuses on applied research, as scholars help practitioners invent viable forms of digital news that communities need. …”

An open letter from the foundations suggests that the schools have not been adapting quickly enough to the changing world of digital communication. Kerri’s guests at 11:30 a.m. today include one of the letter’s authors. Here’s a quote:

We believe journalism and communications schools must be willing to recreate themselves if they are to succeed in playing their vital roles as news creators and innovators. Some leading schools are doing this but most are not. … We are calling on university presidents and provosts to join us in supporting the reform of journalism and mass communication education. …

Schools that do not update their curriculum and upgrade their faculties to reflect the profoundly different digital age of communication will find it difficult to raise money from foundations interested in the future of news. The same message applies to administrators who acquiesce to regional accrediting agencies that want terminal degrees as teaching credentials with little regard to competence as the primary concern.

The letter’s focus is on technical skills and strategy. It runs more than 450 words, but the word “ethics” is not among them.

What do you think? What’s the most important skill, or set of skills, that a journalist should have? Comment here, and listen at 11:30.

  • JBL

    I’m in the news from time to time, and find that the best journalists understand complex statistics well. Those who understand stats can see through the talking points and sensational anecdotes and get down to what’s really happening. Those who don’t can be duped by dubious claims, fall for slick presentation, and miss some really interesting stories that fall just below the radar.

    I know I have to drop the b.s. and get serious when a reporter challenges me on a fine point of a study I’m quoting. Sadly, that doesn’t happen as often as it should. I don’t expect journalists to turn their stories into math lessons, but if they if they really dig into the numbers, they’ll find all kinds of angles their less astute colleagues will miss.

    I don’t know how much study of statistics is required for journalists, but from what I’ve seen, there needs to be more.

  • Jeff

    The last caller had it right, I get so tired of hearing about Twitter and other social media thrown into journalism and news programs. It’s fine to use Twitter to promoter your story, but I don’t care how many people tweeted about the dang Olympics or even a mass shooting.

  • Mark

    Global literacy. my remedy:travel, date people with different looking passports, understand their worldview and how it developed, infuse those perspectives in your work.

  • jimmy


    You can’t be a journalist if you are unable to set your feelings aside and do your job in an objective manner.

    For instance, Bill Moyers calls himself a journalist, even though he has never been objective, has always been pushing his extremist lefty political position. A joke. Now an old joke.