Fascinating research released this week from the Poynter Institute shows that when it comes to understanding the importance of learning multimedia skills and using digital tools, those working in college classrooms are far ahead of those working in professional newsrooms. This research is in conflict with recent claims that journalism schools have been slow to react to the changing media landscape.
More than 2,900 educators, students, media professionals and independent journalists responded to the survey, which asked them the importance of 37 different skills and attributes for a “beginning journalist as he/she looks toward his/her career in the digital/mobile age.”
Professionals at media organizations rated the importance of all of the multimedia skills much lower than did educators, students and even independent or freelance journalists. Some examples:
* 45 percent of professionals thought it was important to very important that a journalist have the ability to shoot and edit video. However, three-fourths of educators in the survey thought video skills were important to very important.
*79 percent of educators said that photography skills — essential skills since most reporters today are equipped with smartphones or cameras — were important to very important. Fifty-three percent of professionals responded that the ability to shoot and edit photographs was important to very important.
In Fall of last year, Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation followed up the Open Letter that he and other important funders of journalism schools wrote to the nation’s j-schools with a seething article that “Journalism Education Isn’t Changing Fast Enough.“
“It appears that educators have listened to the debate about the need to change, at least enough to acknowledge the importance of new skills,” wrote Howard Finberg, co-author of the report and director of business development at The Poynter Institute, on his blog. “But the question remains: What are professionals hearing about the importance of new skills and how they fit within organizations as they make the transition to digital?”
Interestingly enough, I am writing my capstone project on this very topic and have interviewed several professionals inside news organizations. I will make my paper available soon enough. But in answer to Mr. Finberg’s question, everyone professional I spoke with is well aware of the importance of digital media tools, but they still prioritize writing, ethics, copyright law and basic journalistic tenets like checking sources as paramount. Many have seen first hand from recent graduates a sloppiness in using sources and pictures from the Internet without verification or permission. They don’t want to see so much emphasis be put on digital practice that journalistic theory suffers.