When Counting News Staffs, Count Fast

June 11th, 2008; 10:23 am by Ryan Thornburg

In my survey of online news staffs at N.C. newspapers, we did notice that at least one person switched companies while the survey was in the field, perhaps adding some inaccuracy to our count. We didn’t detect any reduction in online staffs, but as noted in a story about the possibility of impending cuts at the News & Observer, it’s something of which newsroom census takers need to be aware, especially when using online mastheads as a guide.

According to a contact list published on the N&O’s Web site, the news operation numbers 224 people. However, due to attrition, a hiring freeze and recent departures, the number is now around 190.

I’ve not seen many of these massive newspaper job cuts reducing online staffs, although I have seen online newsrooms be used as safe landing zones for print staff looking to avoid layoffs (potentially reducing the number of “new” skills being infused in to traditional news organizations.) Although, I’ve also seen hiring freezes be used to update skill sets in online newsrooms as well. Typically, when that happens I see online news organizations slowing the hiring of people with traditional copyediting/production skills (the kind of which we see prevalent among North Carolina online newsrooms) and instead hiring people with more programming skills such as  SQL, PHP or ActionScript.

Do you see similar trends?

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