Six types of news journalists

Posted on October 27, 2009 
Filed Under Internet, Journalism, Social Media

[from MediaPost]

American journalists are ready and eager to speed up the transition from print to digital, and almost half surveyed believe their newsroom is moving way too slowly.

The Northwestern University’s Media Management Center came to this conclusions in a report, “Life Beyond Print” (3.8M PDF) based on a survey of almost 3,800 print, digital, and hybrid journalists in a cross section of 79 U.S. newsrooms.

The survey classified journalists into six groups:
1. Digitals (12%): They already spend a most of their time working online. They are either online editors or producers, but about 17% are reporters or writers, and more than half are journalism grads. They are newer to journalism (< less than 10 years experience) but are open to change, new career options and more likely to try something new. In a typical newsroom, they likely got the most training last year. 2. Major Shifts(11%): Those who are currently doing the least digital work but would like to increase it by five times. They are the most dissatisfied with their current state, more pessimistic about staying in the business long-term and want the most pronounced changes. An equal mix of reporters, mid-level editors, copy editors, designers and videographers, most of whom have been in the business at least 15 years are deeply engaged online in their personal and social lives, but see a disconnect at work. They could help the newsroom adapt faster, but need a sign they should stay in newspapers.

3. The Moderately Mores (50%): Those who would like to double their current digital activities to achieve a 50-50 split with their print efforts. They have been in news business more than 20 years. They believe their newsroom transition has been too slow although they do think it is headed in the right direction.

4. The Status Quos (14%): They believe the 30% of effort they currently devote to online is sufficient and prefer to see no change. Most believe the pace of change to date has been “about right.” This group is slightly older than the overall population. Nearly half are age 50 or older and 1-in-10 is 60 or older.

5. Turn Back the Clocks (6%): Those nostalgic for a return to print and wish online would go away. They report about 30% of their current effort is spent online, nearly triple the amount they would prefer. This is a group that has tested the online environment and they don’t like it. They less satisfied than their Status Quo colleagues and have the lowest opinion of leaders of all the groups and are least likely, in particular, to believe executives really understand what it takes to put out the newspaper.

6. The Leaders (5%): Publishers, editors and managing editors, most of whom have been in the news business more than 20 years. Most report their roles are primarily print-focused but want to shift to online. Like Digitals, they describe themselves as open to change and optimistic about their career options. The Leaders report spending about 25% of their work effort on online matters, but believe the emphasis should shift to favour digital (53%) over print responsibilities. 28% of Leaders think their job is changing too fast overall, which could reflect the lack of clarity around a business model to sustain digitally delivered journalism but nearly 70% say the newsroom is on the right track. This group reports somewhat greater Internet use outside work than other journalists.

There are differing expectations for leaders among the segments:
* The Digitals want The Leaders to be even more immersed in online trends and to sharpen the digital vision.
* The Major Shifts want more risk-taking.
* The Status Quos generally like what leaders are doing and advocate staying the course.

The study by Vickey Williams, Stacy Lynch and Bob LeBailly, found that online desire in the newsroom is not driven by the fallacy of youth.

The top predictors of wanting to switch to digital are:
1. Heavy Internet use outside work.
2. Online customer knowledge.
3. Openness to change at work and adaptability.
4.Digital training: Receiving training necessary to learn online skills.
5. Personality: Keeping up with company initiatives, online trends and industry changes.

1. Journalists’ passion for the mission is there, but they need basic tools for reinvention and more engaged leadership. More than half of the journalists working primarily in print had no training in the previous year to equip them for a digital transition. One in four journalists reports having had no training at all.

2. There are major gaps between how leaders think they are doing and how staff view them, in such areas as fostering collaboration, seeking out input from employees at all levels, and communicating strategy in a way that relates to employees’ jobs.

3. Senior managers rate research about what online users want low on their list of priorities suggesting that editors are at risk of repeating the errors of the past by not ensuring that everyone in the newsroom develops a deep knowledge of who their readers are and what they want.

4. Despite the turmoil in the industry, the vast majority of the journalists surveyed reported that they were “still satisfied with their jobs and believed they would be in the news business two years from now — and more than half with the same newspaper.”

5. The surveyors advised: “Leaders should encourage all employees to use downtime to edit video, tweet, upload mobile photos to Facebook pages and otherwise keep current in online trends. Even for employees who don’t have any online work responsibilities, the more engaged they are with the Internet on their own, the more eager they will be to transition to online at work.”

Links: Life Beyond Print (3.8M PDF)


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