Johnny Andrews , staff photographer for The Post-Dispatch  spoke to journalism students at Lindenwood University on March 22. He gave advice on finding stories and using multimedia to captivate an audience.

Be a Platypus

As I’ve learned in my Writing for Converged Media class, modern journalists need to wear many hats and have a diverse range of media skills. Andrews is no exception to this rule. He not only takes still photos for The Post-Dispatch, he also shoots and edits video. Andrews called having multiple skills being a “platypus.” Just like a platypus is a hybrid of different kinds of animals, a modern journalist must be a technological hybrid.

Andrews said that adapting to new technology was the key to staying in business. He knew photographers and reporters who got laid off because they refused to shoot video. According to Andrews, 80 percent of news outlets require reporters and photographers to have multiple skills.

Find Your Own Stories

Like some reporters who are reluctant to embrace new technology and new skills, Andrews said he was unhappy about doing video at first. Much of his reluctance came from the stories he got assigned. He gave the example of his boss telling him to film a preview story for an upcoming car show. Since the cars had not arrived yet, all he could film was an empty show room.

Andrews became more interested in video after he got a chance to look for his own stories. He encouraged the class to do the same by searching for topics we’re interested in. Andrews showed several videos he made spotlighting local bands. This was a project he wanted to do. Because he did it so well, The Post-Dispatch sponsored the projects.

Andrews also finds many of his stories by simply driving around and seeing what he can find. Some of his best feature stories have come from unexpected encounters. He shared another story about driving down the street and seeing a group of kids playing instruments on the sidewalk. That chance sighting turned into a valuable feature story about a music group for inner-city children.

Embrace Social Media

social media links

The ability to share media via social sites is how content becomes popular.

The importance of social media has been stressed in my Writing for Converged Media class. Though it has many uses, Andrews focused on social media’s ability to spread content and gain popularity. On his personal site, he allows his content to be shared and embedded on other sites which gives his work many more views. He said The Post-Dispatch is more “protective” of its media and does not allow its videos to be embedded on other sites. This prevents the story from becoming popular online.

Be Curious

Curiosity, Andrews said, is one of the most important qualities of a professional journalist.

If you’re not curious, you will be a general assignment reporter.

Andrews gets his best stories from curiosity. If he had not stopped his car and investigated the children playing music on the sidewalk, he would have missed out on a great story.

Good reporters follow what their editors tell them, but great reporters go out and find their own stories.