Our findings were gathered over several months in 2015, based in large part on answers from 39 selected news leaders at 31 different media companies. All of the participants were based in the United States, but several worked for international news organizations. Each leader responded to an online questionnaire with closed- and open-ended questions over four weeks in July and August. We conducted two dozen follow-up interviews by phone and/or by email in the weeks that followed. We also compared the answers we heard with the duties and abilities described in more than 100 publicly posted job descriptions collected from various journalism careers sites between April and mid-July.

For the questionnaire and interviews, we sought high-level decision-makers from organizations with a range of audiences (local, national, global, niche) and business models (non-profit and commercial). We also looked for media leaders from both organizations that began as digital companies and those whose current offerings evolved from a tradition of print or broadcast media.

Our participants included:

  • Eight people from seven local news organizations in small- to medium-sized U.S. markets — companies whose primary audiences were not in the top-10 U.S. media markets;
  • 11 people from eight larger local news organizations, including several with significant national and even international audiences;
  • 15 people from media organizations whose primary audiences were national and/or international;
  • Three people from niche companies with highly targeted audiences, including a specialized social-media news service used by other news outlets;
  • and two people representing large, diversified media companies, including one with significant local holdings in the United States

While we deliberately questioned leaders from a variety of news organizations, this report is not based on statistically valid survey research, as noted above. Some important media categories, such as TV news and magazines, were under-represented among our final list of respondents, which is included at the end of this report. Since we were trying to solicit timely answers from some of the busiest people in the business, our respondents also included former colleagues and clients, as well as others whom we and the Tow-Knight Center faculty and staff also know very well—connections we also will detail at the end of this report. But given the diversity of the newsrooms represented and the leadership roles that many of our respondents have played in the industry and various media associations and organizations, we still think the group we selected was a good one to speak for their peers.