As newsrooms are projected to decline in the next eight years and journalists are tasked with 24/7 deadlines, job prospects in the field may seem scarce. With competition as fierce as ever, many students and college graduates are learning new skill sets beyond exemplary reporting and proficiency in AP Style. One of the most important things that journalists should learn how to do in the digital age is simple, but often overlooked: learn how to use a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera.
It might seem like a no brainer, but the industry job prospect forecast for reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts is expected to decline by 9 percent, or 7,100 journalists. This downsize includes photojournalists, forcing many reporters to cover a story while creating their own multimedia content for digital engagement.
Timeliness is an increasingly prevalent factor in the industry with a permanent online news cycle. Photographers aren't always available to accompany a journalist to a beat, so most reporters will simply use their phone to record video and take photos for their article. Despite this practice, there is a huge difference in quality between the limits of a phone and the number of features found in an actual camera. There are also some things to consider before purchasing a DSLR camera.
There are three main downsides to using a DSLR camera: the first downside is the learning curve, which ranges from needing to know what your shutter speed should be; the correct aperture setting; what the ISO should be set to; which lens to use; having the correct white balance; shooting in RAW vs. JPEG; and a long list of other things that separate mediocre photos from great ones.
The second downside is learning how to utilize Adobe Photoshop or other photo-editing software to make edits and adjustments to the dozens of photos that you shot, which is quite the challenge in itself.
The final downside is the cost of a DSLR camera, which can cost a few hundred dollars in comparison to simply using your phone, which everyone has on hand for personal use. However, most news outlets will have cameras on site that can be checked out for events, which makes purchasing a DSLR camera unnecessary in most cases. As a result, the only issues for most journalists will be the learning curve associated with using a DSLR and the editing software to improve photo quality.
As a staff writer for the media relations department at Eastern Michigan University and the news editor for the Eastern Echo, I rarely had a photographer available for events. It was up to me to take my own videos and photos, making my camera purchase well worth the investment even though I'm still learning how to use my camera to its fullest potential.
Most DSLR's are good cameras and there is a marked difference between smart phones and actual cameras. Due to a phone camera's lens depth, a DSLR will always have better sensor aperture and lenses, producing better quality photos regardless of skill level. DSLR's also offer a wide variety of features and settings that aren't available on a smart phone
In a pool of applicants applying for a reporting position, all of the candidates will have experience writing a variety of articles as well as proficiency in AP Style. Considering the field is highly competitive due to so few positions available, journalists are learning new skills that will make them stand out from other candidates. Photography is arguably the most important and relevant skill that would make a journalist a valuable asset to the news organization that they're reporting for.
For my next blog post I will be providing a more in depth guide on purchasing a DSLR camera, so stay tuned for next week's blog post!