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Survey Finds Newsroom Training Lacking

Forty percent of journalists surveyed in late 2006 said they are most dissatisfied with training opportunities; 32 percent cited pay and benefits; 31 percent cited chances for promotion. Click to enlarge. (Source: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation /  Prepared by Diego Mantilla)
By Diego Mantilla
Maryland Newsline
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
; tables added March 28, 2007

WASHINGTON - Four in 10 journalists say they are most dissatisfied with training opportunities in their jobs -- more than those who say they are dissatisfied with pay and benefits or chances for promotion, according to a survey released Tuesday by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The survey found that 93 percent of local television news outlets provided some training to journalists, making them the media most likely to provide training.

Weekly newspapers were the least likely to provide training--with 69 percent doing so.

The survey was given online and by telephone to 1,284 staffers and 741 executives in news media between September and November. It was a follow-up to a similar survey conducted in 2002 - both by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent for the executives’ survey, and plus or minus 3 percent for the staffer’s survey. The findings appear in a book co-authored by Michele McLellan and Tim Porter, titled “News, Improved: How America’s Newsrooms Are Learning to Change.”

“What we have seen in newsrooms is … the right training, strategic training, elevates not only individual skills, but group and organizational skills, which is key to culture change,” said McLellan in a news conference to explain the new findings.

“It fosters more collaboration, a more adaptive culture. It improves employee retention, which is a financial as well as a knowledge issue. It accelerates change and eases the difficulty of it.”

McLellan said that newspapers need to train their staff if they wanted to compete against and adopt new technology.

“It’s train or die, essentially,” she said.

Fifty-four percent of news organizations reported plans to increase training in new media, the area most likely to see increased training. In contrast, only about one in five news organizations plans to increase ethics training, the survey found.

In other findings:

  • Three out of ten journalists said they are most dissatisfied with pay and benefits.

  • About half of staff members said top managers would benefit from additional training in management; one out of five said managers would benefit from training in new media technology.

  • Ninety-six percent of news executives who had hired new journalists recently said that new hires coming into their organizations need more training.

Change can be hard on newspapers. A survey by the Readership Institute that looked into the culture of the newspaper industry found in 2004 that newspaper culture could be characterized as aggressive and defensive, a culture in which “members are expected to approach tasks in forceful ways to protect their status and security.” The study’s sample were 6,602 members of 48 newspapers.

The "News, Improved" book shows examples of newsroom training that yielded results, such as more new-media content. For instance, after staffers were given multimedia training, The Bakersfield Californian produced more than 600 online videos through mid-November 2006, compared to just six in November 2005.

Correction: The first-edition version of this story misspelled Michele McLellan's name. Newsline regrets the error, which is corrected in this update.

“We hope to help newsrooms understand how to spend their training money better, so they spend more of it,” said Eric Newton, vice president of the journalism program at the Knight Foundation.

“Most newsrooms are still either paralyzed or moving in the wrong direction when it comes to newsroom training,” Newton said.

Copyright 2007 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism


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