Why photographers should be like meerkats

Nearly 300,000 of us follow a Twitter account called You Had One Job.

It highlights cock-ups in signs, headlines, road markings, product design and branding.

one job

The irony is that most of them probably result from the fact that the person responsible was actually trying to balance dozens of jobs at the same time.

Certainly that’s likely to be the case when – as often happens – newspaper bills, headlines or unfortunate juxtapositions come under the @_youhadonejob spotlight.

It’s a slightly sideways leap, but it got me thinking about the ONE attribute you’d want to see when looking to fill some of the jobs in a newsroom.

Of all the talents, skills and traits needed for the various roles, which is the most crucial?

In an editor, I increasingly want to see a motivator.

Someone who can lead people into daily battle, cajoling, coaxing and challenging them with persuasiveness and passion, along with a keen appreciation of the right way to create and develop team spirit and loyalty.

I spent a bit of time this week talking to a reporter with ambitions of becoming a news editor.

I stressed to him the most important part of the job was confidence (although stamina’s not far behind).

That’s the confidence to try out ideas online and on social media, the confidence to inspire your staff and win the trust of your senior colleagues in conference, and the confidence to deal with the brickbats and bouquets offered up each day by the public.

For reporters, I have always thought that determination twinned with empathy is by far the most crucial quality to bring to the party.

I want people who don’t give up at the first hurdle, but who temper their assertiveness with emotional intelligence, imagination and sensitivity.

I’m no designer, so if I was an editor, I’d want ones with a single-minded vision that complemented – and sometimes challenged – my obsession with words.  And ones with the same stamina reserves as the news editor.

On sport, talented adaptability has to be the key, multitasking between disciplines, between elite and grassroots, between print and online and between writing and design.

While on the features desk, a fresh imagination that never loses its inquisitiveness would be top of my wishlist. I want people who don’t want to write the same interview twice, and who never want their magazine cover to be predictable.

And finally, what about those stalwarts (mostly freelance in our neck of the woods now) described by one of my old editors as the drummers of the newsroom?

In a photographer, I want meerkat-level alertness, with an antenna that never drops out of service, always looking for that moment to capture, and always with the camera ready for those unexpected situations and opportunities.


And I don’t want anyone who’s ever applied to be on The Apprentice.

For any of the jobs.


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