Posts Tagged ‘online newsroom survey’

Reaction: Survey of Online Journalists

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

The survey of journalists working online at North Carolina newspapers has begun to receive some insightful feedback from others, both on this site and around the Web. It’s a good time to summarize some of the responses here. I’m looking forward to hearing from more people, especially if you have a question that the data I’ve collected might help answer. For me, two big questions remain:

  • Can we come up with a somewhat standardized set of job titles and descriptions for online newsrooms circa 2008?
  • Is there a way to look at newsrooms skills and organization structures to determine “the best” way to structure an online news operation?

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Journalism Programming: Supply and Demand

Friday, July 11th, 2008

One of the reasons I’m so struck that online journalists in North Carolina have such an emphasis on traditional skills and duties is that it starkly contrasts with the skills I hear editors at top national sites tell me that they are looking for in recent j-school grads. The Knight Foundation believes that programmers are in such high demand in newsrooms today that they gave Northwestern $638,000 to fund nine full-ride scholarships for programmers who want to get a master’s degree in journalism at Medill.

One of the scholarship recipients, Brian Boyer, writes about his career prospects over at the MediaShift blog.

Listed below are the job titles he thinks are available to him. He’s most interested in becoming a “applications developer” or a “hacker journalist.” Are any of these jobs available in North Carolina?

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Traditional Concepts Most Important to Online Journalists

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Once again in my survey of online journalists at North Carolina newspapers, we see a return to tradition. They say that news judgment and the ability to work under time pressure are the concepts that are most important to their jobs, while community management is far and away the least important of the 10 choices I gave them.

Also bringing up the rear of concepts that online journalists said were important to them: the ability to learn new technologies and awareness of new technologies.

And, interesting to note for those of us who teach students that it is more important to get it right than to get it first, the online journalists in my survey said that ability to work under time pressures was more important than attention to detail. As a group, they gave deadlines a higher average importance than details. As individuals, 63 percent of the respondents ranked time pressure more important than accuracy.

Oy vey.

At this point in my analysis, I have to conclude that one of two things is happening here:

  1. EITHER There is wide disparity between the skills, duties and concepts that I personally think should be emphasized in online newsrooms and in the skills, duties and concepts that are perceived as the most prominent and/or important in actual online newsrooms at North Carolina newspapers.
  2. OR This survey is totally FUBAR. Perhaps I asked the wrong questions of the wrong people.

To help me sort this out, I’m going to turn to a panel of experts — both in survey methodology and in online newsroom leadership. And, of course, your comments below are always helpful.

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Journalism Education: Training the Trainers

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Earlier today I wrote about the duties of online journalists. One of the underlying purposes of my survey is to find out how journalism schools can better prepare students for the near future, and there were two popular duties that stood out as “soft skills” that are not emphasized in classrooms — teaching and training other people in the newsroom, and “project management.”

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Tampa Tribune Reorganization

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Update: Shannan Bowen does a nice job summarizing the recent online conversation about this topic. The highlight? It is dominated by young journalists determined to do good work.

I would like to thank the Tampa Tribune for helping demonstrate the importance of knowing how newsrooms are organized — what skills, duties and concepts are held at different staff positions, and how those positions relate to each other.

The Tribune’s reorganization memo was posted to Romenesko yesterday. Thanks to Paul Jones for the tip.

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Duties of the Online Journalist: ‘Writers’ and ‘Trainers’

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

As a group, online journalists in North Carolina spend more time writing original stories for the Web than doing anything else. But that’s because a few journalists spend most of their time on that one duty, while most online journalists spend their time on an average of nine different duties.

Many of them are spending time on duties that don’t have an immediate, direct effect on their Web site’s content. The task of training and teaching their colleagues is the duty that an online journalist is most likely to have performed at least once during the last three months.

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Skills of Online Journalists Skew Traditional

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

In my survey of online journalists at North Carolina newspapers, I asked respondents to describe their proficiency in each of 17 different skills. What I found was that although online journalists are relatively young, their strength as a group remains in traditional skills of news judgment, grammar and AP style.

Here’s a table of the results.

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Experience Levels of Online Journalists

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported the median age. (July 8, 1:16 p.m.)

In my survey of online journalists in North Carolina, I found that most have fewer than 10 years of experience in journalism.

The average years of experience was nearly 14, and the median was 10. But that’s because the years of experience ranged from one to 49.

The most frequent experience level was six years. Eleven percent of respondents reported they had done that much time in a newsroom.

Education Levels

  • At least an undergraduate degree: 82 percent:
  • Post-Graduate work: 19 percent

When Counting News Staffs, Count Fast

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

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?

Online Titles at N.C. Papers Skew Toward Editing

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

In the survey of people who work online at N.C. newspapers, respondents were asked to categorize themselves by a general job field and then by a more specific job title. They could chose from 10 job fields and 84 titles. We selected these fields and titles from a list of 237 job titles and detailed descriptions that The Croner Company used in its 2007 Online Content and Service Compensation Survey. All 84 job titles and their detailed descriptions can be seen here.

I previously discussed the responses to the job field question. And, it’s no surprise that the high rate and sheer number of responses from the Asheville Citizen-Times also skews the job title findings toward the “writing” field. As we dig deeper in to the findings, it will be interesting to see what duties and skills those writers have — whether they tend toward the “traditional” or the “new”.

Overall, we had 56 people answer the question about their job titles. Those 56 people chose 24 different job titles for themselves. That comes out to 2.3 people per title, which doesn’t really help us in our quest to standardize titles. Bummer.

Including Asheville, the most popular job titles were:

  • Writer - 14%
  • Manager, Content - 11%
  • Editor - 11%
  • None of the Above - 9%

The remaining 55% of responses were scattered across 20 categories.

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