Superpowers: The digital skills newsrooms need

 In Featured, Jobs, Research, Tow Knight News

Newsrooms  want journalists who can do it all — and are mostly likely to hire those who combine combine a “transformational” digital skill with traditional reporting and editing expertise.

That’s the conclusion of a new report on hiring priorities by Mark Stencel and Kim Perry for CUNY J-School’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.

Stencel, co-director of the Duke Reporter’s Lab, and Perry, a senior editor on the New York Times’ Digital Transition team, surveyed and interviewed news leaders at 31 news organizations to produce “Superpowers: The digital skills media leaders say newsrooms need going forward”.

Overall, the study’s broad, but non-scientific sample of newsroom managers and executives said they most wanted to hire journalists with skills in visual storytelling/editing, coding/development, and audience development/user data and metrics. But hires with those skills alone weren’t enough.

“What we heard from the news leaders we talked to is that they are trying to build teams of people who combine discreet specialized skills, bonded by a strong foundation in journalism fundamentals or a deep appreciation of journalism’s mission and values,” said Stencel, a former NPR managing editor.

“That may mean journalists who’ve also mastered a skill or a combination of related skills sets, or it may mean a specialist (in metrics or product development or code…) who comes to the news business with an appreciation of journalism’s particular role and needs. And then we need leaders who know how to make those teams work together.”
Perry, formerly director of Editorial Coaching and Development at NPR, emphasized that journalists still need strong reporting and editing skills, and don’t need to follow every new trend or develop every emerging skill. “It’s clear that these new skills, and even the core ones, are constantly evolving. So being comfortable with change and engaging your curiosity is essential.”
Growing “…into another expertise that will be hugely useful,” Perry said. “It’s heartening to know that aspiring and mid-career journalists can discover an aspect of digital storytelling that most interests them — whether it’s interacting with audiences, coding awesome story forms, or helping organize newsroom projects.”

Stencel’s and Perry’s research was intended to capture the news industry’s perspective on which digital skills are needed to allow journalism organizations to survive and serve audiences, according to Tow-Knight Center Director Jeff Jarvis.

“I hope it provides a baseline so we can regularly revisit these questions with followups to inform both the industry and student (and teacher!) training in journalism schools,” Jarvis wrote in a Medium post on the report.


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