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Converged news, standalone journalists and pay

Fellow journalism blogger Doug Fisher posted a comment this weekend regarding my recent post about the converged newsroom. Doug wanted to point out the work being done at the Ifra Newsplex at the University of South Carolina. And Doug is right. If you're looking to build a multimedia newsroom for the future, take a look at the Newsplex.
Speaking of converged newsrooms, there was an interesting post in the blogsphere this weekend about editorial staffers in the new, multimedia environment.
At Businessweek's blog, they seem to be worried that the demands of producing content in a variety of media formats may lead to the "death" of the beat reporter. Their thinking -- born of a lunch with an unnamed media executive -- seems to be that multimedia skills are so time-consuming, difficult and specialized that some new breed of highly paid super producer must emerge. Such people would have little time for traditional reporting.
That's nonsense.
Multimedia is not difficult. It's not time-consuming. Any knucklehead can master these technologies. You can't demand a salary premium for skills that are in abundance. I'd predict that within another year or so almost every entry-level journalist you could find will have the skills to work with audio, video, digital photos, etc. etc. etc. If anything, that would push salaries lower. There is one core journalism skill that determines salary -- storytelling. If you can acquire information and then present it in a compelling fashion, you are worth more than the person who cannot. That is true regardless of medium.
On the other hand, I think Businessweek's Stephen Baker is dead right about the type of person who can succeed in this new environment. "They will know how to harvest the knowledge of experts and citizen reporters alike, and will fashion new journalistic products out of various media. They will have entrepreneurial skills and many will create their own brands," Baker said.
That's as good a description as you'll find of the standalone journalist. And as I've said before, B2B journalism is particularly vulnerable to competition from such people.
For another look at Businessweek's take on the converged newsroom and the reporters of the future, check out Jeff Jarvis' post.