The annual NCTJ Journalism Skills Conference was held in Sheffield last week and featured discussions from a range of journalists representing broadcast, print and online.

The two-day event hosted panels on digital literacy, investigative journalism, regulation, photojournalism and diversity at The University of Sheffield and Sheffield College, which both run accredited journalism courses.

Highlights of the event included a deeply moving talk by The Times reporter Andrew Norfolk who spent four years off diary undercovering the Rotherham child grooming sex scandal which in his words was “all consuming” and left him “dysfunctional”.

And one controversial conference moment was the question from panellist, BBC Sport reporter Sonali Shah, about whether every journalist needed shorthand in the age of mobile phone audio recorders which led to sharp intakes of breath from the audience.

Although some mention was made of the core NCTJ skills of shorthand, media law and to a certain extent public affairs and structuring a news story, the emphasis of the conference was on new digital skills and adaptability.

Key attributes raised by multiple speakers included:

  • Tenacity
  • Curiosity
  • Story finding
  • Story telling

Journalists are now expected to be adept at:

  • Social media for sourcing, gathering, breaking and disseminating news
  • Uploading multimedia content to content management systems
  • Basic online video and audio skills (particularly using a mobile phone)
  • Photography skills (including shooting, cropping, captioning and editing)
  • Analytics and SEO
  • Visualising data
  • Knowing how to compete against public bodies, businesses and charities in the online sphere

And is it advantageous for new recruits to have:

  • A basic understanding of html and coding
  • Knowledge of Photoshop, Googledrive, Excel
  • Strong editing skills

This ever-expanding digital skill set, underpinned by strong communication and investigation skills, poses many challenges to journalism educators who must add increasing components to their courses whilst maintaining some sense of what it means to be a journalist and to produce journalism.