Gannett’s “Newsroom of the Future” calls for changes in journalism education

If Gannett’s radical newsroom restructuring becomes industry norms, journalism schools need to do two things to better prepare graduates for the job market: (a) offer innovative digital training and (b) prepare students for jobs other than newsroom staff.

What is Gannet’s “Newsroom of the Future”?

Gannett Company, the largest newspaper publisher in the U.S., is rolling out a plan to radically change newsroom structure of its newspaper assets across the country. A direct result of this initiative is staff downsizing and creation of new roles.

According to a Poynter article, a Gannett newspaper editor said there will be fewer management positions and a smaller number of production-related roles; the new newsroom is “deconstructing the typical assigning editors job,” resulting in new roles such as audience analyst, engagement editor, storytelling coach and content strategist.

An insider was quoted as saying that under the “Newsroom of the Future,” there are 16 job descriptions. Each newsroom employee at each Gannett property must be in one of these positions. They are all digital-centric and aligned with Gannett’s new “Picasso” initiative, in which journalism is driven solely by metrics and journalists are expected to be marketers and “community connectors.”

A list of job descriptions for such new newsrooms is being attached to the end of this post.

How will it impact journalism education?

If the “Newsroom of the Future” becomes industry norms, journalism schools need to do two things to better prepare students for the job market: (a) offer innovative digital training to students and (b) prepare students for jobs other than newsroom staff.

When we examine the job descriptions for Gannett’s newsroom, it is apparent that staff will need new tools and skillsets in order to fulfill their new roles. For instance, the community content editor needs to analyze audience needs and this essentially requires knowledge of web metrics and analytics; for the engagement editor,  he or she should possess expertise in social media, marketing and events planning; and for most of the newsroom staff, digital and multiplatform production is an integral part of the job.

And this echos what I previously wrote about the myriad skills employers now expect of journalism graduates – journalism schools need to revamp their curriculum to better meet the changing job market demands. The skills list is copied below:

  • Multimedia storytelling skills. Producing slideshows with sound, shooting and editing video and photos, writing for the web.
  • Data and statistical skills for storytelling. Collecting, editing, analyzing and interpreting data to produce compelling interactive maps and graphics.
  • Audience development skills (formerly known as marketing and circulation) such as managing online communities, interpreting data on audience behavior, crowdsourcing for information, interacting with the audience.
  • Basics of programming. How to create compelling pages that attract web audiences.
  • The business of media. Journalists can help a news organization generate revenues without compromising their ethics, and today that skill is more important than ever.

On another note, as the “Newsroom of the Future” comes with a smaller staff, it seems to result in a tougher job market for journalism graduates. This is not necessarily the case.

I once wrote in a post that there’s a growing demand, outside the news media sector, for journalism skills and professionals. To that end, journalism schools need to train students as content producers for various institutions, not just journalists for news media.

The diagram below shows that in the past, only the news media need journalism skills; today, institutions and the public, along with the media, need journalism skills to produce contents that engage audience.

journalism skills

Job descriptions for “Newsroom of the Future”

Community Content Editor: Main Function: Analyzes audience needs and procures complementary community content for all platforms, such as stories, photos, videos, news briefs and blogs. Seeks partners, services and contributors to deepen products’ reach and impact. Oversees the smooth editing and production of this content into both print and digital products. Pay range: $46,400-$69,000.

Content Coach: Coaches, supervises and directs the work of reporters, encouraging independent planning and self-direction. Guides reporters and photographers by applying specific expertise to ensure that they create high quality content that fulfills the newsroom’s strategy across all platforms. Focus areas include, but are not limited to: investigative reporting, narrative writing, photography and videography, beat development and digital content. Sometimes takes a hands-on approach to accelerate a story’s path to publication. Guides journalists by consultation and coaching before, during and after the creation of content. Focuses on the most important, sensitive and complex stories. Pay range: $46,400-$69,600.

Engagement Editor I: Plans and executes engagement opportunities to maximize community impact and story resonance in print, digital, community event and social media settings. Oversees content that highlights discussions and debates on important community issues. Should possess expertise in social media, marketing and events planning. Connects content with creative ways to generate community interaction both virtually and through events. May directly supervise the work of producers. Salary range: $36,000-$54,000

News Assistant: Provides support for the newsroom. Writes, re-writes, assembles and publishes content such as calendars, listings, press releases, news briefs and sports briefs. Delivers content for digital and print platforms while meeting deadlines. Salary range: $19,968-$29,952

Photographer/Videographer I: Creates and develops visual storytelling across multiple platforms, using both photography and videography to inform, engage and entertain fan bases. Acts as a public ambassador through community outreach and connects with readers through social media. Works with content coach, reporters and other photographers to improve content quality. Collaborates with content strategists and audience analysts to shape storytelling that will meet audience interests and needs. Salary range: $25,280-$37,920

Planning Editor (print or digital): Uses high level of expertise and judgment to determine the placement of content and has final say in the finished product. Planning editor supervise [sic] producers and has the authority to enforce deadlines. Oversees the planning, programming and production of newsroom content. Acts as a customer-experience expert and newsroom project manager. Collaborates with content strategists and audience analysts to program content by platform and ensure we deliver on key audience expectations. Ensures the right volume and quality of content across platforms for both daily and enterprise needs. Follows through the process from conception to publication to ensure SOPs are followed and deadlines are met. Pay range: $46,400-$69,600

Reporter 1 (Prep Sports): Researches, reports and writes compelling journalism that continuously grows a fan base by informing and engaging readers. Acts as a public ambassador through community outreach and connects with readers through social media. Provides thoughtful analysis of complex issues. Works with the content coach, content strategists and audience analysts to shape storytelling to meet audience needs and interests on every platform. Salary range: $25,280-$37,920

There are also Reporter 1 positions for Breaking News; Youth Reporter; Patriotism; Santa Rosa; Community Sports; and Crime and Justice. There’s a Reporter 2 position ($32,000-$48,000) for the Escambia beat.

Producer 1 (print or digital): Manages the delivery of content to digital and print platforms and meets deadlines. Works with planning editor, content coach, reporters and photographers to best display content on all platforms, using a high level of judgment and creativity. Collaborates with engagement editors to maximize social media presence. Copy edits some content before publishing to digital platforms or handing off to a design studio. Pay range: $25,280-$37,920

Reporter 3 (College and Pro Sports): Same “main function” as Reporter 1. Salary range: $40,800-$61,200. There are also Reporter 3 positions for Economic Growth, and Waterways.

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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4 Responses to Gannett’s “Newsroom of the Future” calls for changes in journalism education

  1. njaleruma says:

    It is an aye opener for both journalism schools,like where I am- Makerere Metropolitan Management Institute (Kampala) and journalists.

  2. Lal D Rai says:

    Very likely future newsroom scenario ;but its actualization depends, I think, on uninterrupted supply of energy which is not very promising for the world,particularly the developing world.

  3. Robin G says:

    This concept is disturbing for many reasons. First, higher education/liberal arts is fast becoming not liberal arts education but vocational/technical training.Second, when journalists focus on metrics, we lose focus on investigative journalism and stories which make us uncomfortable but which need to be told.

    • Mu Lin says:

      Journalism school, like law school or business school, has a natural focus on vocational training. If the industry is changing, the higher ed has no choice but to adapt itself. I guess the faculty and the school dean are not worrying about the same thing – the faculty want to uphold the spirit of “fourth estate,” whereas the dean wants to make sure every graduate can find a job.

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