“Journalists do trip up because of the pressure to be first and be ‘now’”

A Q&A with Channel 4 and ITV journalist, James Blake

James Blake started off his journey in the field of journalism in the 90s. It all started with an ITN traineeship in 1998 and today, James has a couple decades worth of experience working in the news field and teaching in academia, with a focus on television news.

How does working as a journalist back then compare to today’s industry?

“Back then we had camera teams, lighting people, sound people, producer reporter in the studio we had script runners; there were a lot of people doing specialist people. Whereas nowadays in television news, you are expected to do your own filming even if you’re the one interviewing people… you are also usually expected to do the editing yourself. There are still highly skilled craft editors doing the more specialised stuff but now journalists have to turn their hand with filming and editing.”

Do you think the traditional role of journalists has shifted more towards to multimedia journalism?

“There has been a real shift in the newsgathering operations; how it’s done, how to target particular online media platforms, how mobile we can be. We don’t have specialist jobs anymore – you are expected to be more of a ‘multi-skiller’. There’s a huge growth in the number of opportunities for people who like to get stuck into the variety. You could work for a newspaper or radio and still create digital content. But there has been such a disruption in the industry. People who have been in the field for decades are losing their jobs now. They find they don’t have the skills to satisfy editors’ demands anymore.”

Thinking about when you first started in the field were the expectations of what working as a journalist would be met and has it all changed now?

“The job in the industry surpassed my expectations as to how much freedom you have. Journalists are getting more and more freedom, which derives from the diverse platforms to tell stories that we have now. There is not as much money around, so journalists must be able to do it cheaply, which is a challenge but also an opportunity. When you are a multi-skilled journalist and can tell stories cheaply, you are often given more freedom. You don’t need a team of 5 people anymore. You can often go and do it by yourself and that’s an amazing freedom to be able to move quickly and lightly and still create amazing, high-quality content.”

Has the internet era and so called ‘information age’ added to the pressure of producing content fast and get the story out there ‘first’?

“In the past, we had one or two deadlines for the lunchtime programme and now, there are demands and deadlines placed every ten minutes. Nowadays, you don’t have as much time to check your sources and the accuracy, while the regulations around online content are vague. Journalists do trip up because of the pressure to be first and be ‘now’.”

Is the quality that journalists are now able to produce then suffering because of the pressure?

“What you are finding now, is that there is a much bigger breadth within the industry of journalism. I do not see the quality of quality papers and quality journalism getting any worse. These editors and programs do give their journalists enough time and the resources to tell stories properly. Of course, there are some untrustworthy outlets out there because of the pressures, but I wouldn’t say this is affecting journalism as a whole. The good journalists and quality programmes and papers are as good as they always have been if not better.”

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