Where are the journalism jobs in 2010? An initial study

Aoraki Polytechnic - Timaru

I’m recently arrived in Timaru for the New Zealand Journalism Education Association (JEANZ) 2010 annual conference.

I’m giving a paper examining the job market for journalists in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK. The bulk of this post is about that [and it’s quite interesting].

The JEANZ agenda looks great and just enough speakers to fill one-and-a-half days. Our host is Peter O’Neill and the Aoraki journalism staff. The theme this year is “What editors want”. I’m sitting in the very pleasant Aspen on King motel and I have a half-smirk / half-grimace on the dial as I ponder this statement.

You see, there is no question-mark, but perhaps there should be. At a similar session at last week’s Australian JEA conference, there was a lively debate between the panel of editorial trainers and the assembled hackademics. I’ve got some notes here somewhere…I’ll dig them out and be right back.

What happened in Sydney should stay there (maybe)

[EM Returns with the notes and takes his seat in front of the keyboard…]

Here there are, pretty sparse really. Anyway, one thing about the Sydney conference, the twitterfeed at #JEAA2010 was far more engrossing than what the editors said. Perhaps more about that later, but it’s good to remember that two memorable #TWUCKUPs provide interesting talking points.

[The notes on their own don’t reveal to much. I’ve added a commentary from what I recall.]

It’s no surprise that editors want reporters who can break news, write well and show initiative

Editors generally don’t think our graduates are really job-ready when they come through leave journalism school

To get a foot into the job market graduates need to ave an online presence. This comment was from Sophie Black, editor of crikey.com.au but it was echoed by the other panelists from radio, TV and print companies.

Editors want graduates with a passion for story-telling and curiosity in spades

There was a comment from one panellist that sometimes he felt that journalism educators live in some sort of parallel universe that doesn’t quite connect with the reality of the newsroom.

Of course my learned friends don’t see it as a parallel universe – we operate as journalists and many of us protested the suggestion we didn’t know news.

However, there’s no rocket science in understanding that here is a disconnect – between the industry and the academy around their and our expectations of each other and of students; and perhaps, we felt, there was a lack in their understanding of what we do.

I made the point that many of us see that we are also training and educating future leaders in the brave new world of journalism [News 2.0]. We therefore think that our graduates also need to have intellectual sensibilities & creative thinking abilities.

One of my colleagues (I won’t mention a name in case my memory’s wrong, I don’t want a suit) argued well that while we are busy training leaders for the future; when they leave and enter industry, many editors and senior journalists still feel the need to mould them into journalists like them.

[I have adlibed quite a bit in that last par. So if this is not exactly what others remember, I have embellished with my own thinking – “like them”]

Several of the senior hackademics also made a spirited defence of the work we do in research and the scholarship of journalism. It is important that we retain some independence – a significant part of our role is to act as a critic of the industry as it is and to analyse the history and future of journalism looking for critical signs, changes, trends, problems and solutions.

What about professional development challenges? Indeed!

Another senior program leader also made an interesting point about the need to create learning and research pathways for senior reporters and editors to gain insights and expertise in their responsibilities in both editorial and business areas of the news industry.

[Anyway, moving on…]

The JEAA conference was great. I caught up with colleagues and the interesting work they’re doing and also met up with friends and renewed acquaintences.

But thanks for hanging in there past the jump; there is a link between #JEAA2010 and #JEANZ2010 [Do you think that will catch on?]

Of course it’s “what the editor wants”. So, I have put together a tidy little research project that fits the conference theme and I thought I’d share it with you.

What the editor wants: An international overview

For my JEANZ paper I have done a study of journalism employment advertisments that were posted online at aggregator and portal sites (Seek, journalism.org.uk and several others) [There’s a list at the bottom of this post]

I’ve looked at the job descriptions, person descriptions, skills and attributes required, levels of experience and qualifications needed to secure the job. At the same time the job ads have been sorted according to country and according to the main platform of the company or organisation that’s recruiting.

The first chart shows the media platform (based on organisation’s dominant media business) and the percentage of jobs in that category.

Media Platforms

Platform and national job markets

I’ve done a complete breakdown of jobs  by platform and by country and these slides will be available as an appendix on Slideshare shortly.

Data was collected from the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Ads were found and downloaded in several batches from local and international jobsites. Some were college-based in the USA, others were run by freelance operators or journalism-related organisations (journalism.org.uk, for example).

An ad was selected if it came up in a search on a journalism, ,reporting or news-related search term. Each ad was then coded according to platform, country, job specifications and job requirements.

There are three significant findings here worth mentioning.

The first is that print-focused media still accounts for just about half of all journalism jobs advertised between mid-September and early November 2010.

The second is the surprising strength of the platlform category ‘Other’. We needed this broad category to take in a large number of jobs that met the search criteria, but were clearly not jobs ‘in’ journalism.

This ‘Other’ group includes NGOs seeking interns for both fundraising and communications roles, PR firms, ad agencies, in-house and corporate media. A number were from media monitoring companies, including in Australia and New Zealand Media Monitors. As an aside, this year for the first time, I’ve started to notice how many journalism students (and students generally) are working for Media Monitors in Auckland and Wellington.

I spoke to one of them a few weeks ago. He was a really interesting, intelligent and cool guy who wants to be a journalist. According to him, Media Monitors is full of students. Most of them are monitoring Australian media from New Zealand. [I told you it is a low-wage economy]

I’m starting to think that content farms come in many forms. And that’s the third point. In this sample advertisments for content farms outnumbered those for jobs in radio journalism. Companies like Demand Media and Suite 101 are aggressively recruiting for their low-pay churnalism hackwork.

I’ts 6.30, EM’s been invited to drinks and dinner pre-conference.

I’ll post again later in part 2.

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