Journalists need to have specialised knowledge as well as
practical skills to cope with the demands of the current media environment,
writes Jackie Bischof.

This was a theme that emerged at afternoon discussions at
the 14th World Editors Forum in Cape
Town today.

Several panelists touched on the need to have journalists
who were able to work in a variety of media, as well as with different genres
of writing.

Peruvian journalist and writer Mario Vargas Llosa, in a
filmed interview, said that with the vast amounts of information available,
journalists needed to have a "serious knowledge" on the topics they were
writing about.

Not only did journalists need to be creative and
instinctive, but they also needed "as [with] an architect or a lawyer, very
serious training, not only of the techniques but also the historical, civic and
moral dimension of the profession."

The presentation of the Reuters / WEF / Zogby Poll, a poll
of 434 editors worldwide, revealed that the importance of opinion and analysis
articles was increasing for editors. Journalists need to be trained not only to
write news stories, but also to comment on them.

Editor of the Saturday Times UK and President of the World
Editors Forum, George Brock, who presented the poll, commented on this by
saying that that editors are looking to hire journalists who had "brains and
the writing skills to not only write on the news but also be able to analyse it
and comment on it."

Ferial Haffajee, editor of the Mail & Guardian, said that it was important to have specialised
"pockets of print and online excellence". She also said that opinion and
analysis pieces could not replace "breaking hard news" and investigative
journalism that "is at the heart of the success of many African newspapers".