Educated for yesterday: Where do we go from here?

While journalism as a profession has been famously unscathed by the speed of technological innovations such as the emergence of robot journalism, less than 40% of journalists in Denmark believe that their study programme will guarantee them a job in the future.

My final report on the future of journalism education looks at the current state of the Danish job market and recent forms of educating journalists, and then analyses the demands made by the media and skill-set currently taught at the educational institutions that train Danish journalists. I have interviewed the three managers in the field of journalism education and four leading editors.

In short, the academics and editors agree that journalism programmes provide a foundation for good overall news journalism, but no more than that. Building on data and interviews, I suggest a new framework of five specialisations and make recommendations for the education of Danish journalists in the future.

Do you want to read the Danish resume? Then it is available here.

Attitude Trumps Learning: Cheerful Worker with a Desire to Learn

Enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn. Those were the main desires from magazine editors to candidates in a study made by american Carolyn Lepre and Glen L. Bleske.

In contrast, making a portfolio and knowing media theory were on the top of the list of journalism educators.

Attitude trumps learning

It is no wonder that the authors concluded there was little common ground for magazine editors and professors surveyed on journalism curriculum.

Personality Matters

While the educators did not comment on the personality of the students, the editors did. Especially, the editors wanted critical thinkers with a humble attitude. As one editor put it:

“Too many graduates, smart as they obviously are, betray an attitude that says they have nothing to learn. Eagerness cannot be undervalued in a candidate.”

Not surprisingly – and backed up by much other research – basic skills such as writing, proofreading and editing are highly valued by both educators and editors.

Skills Wanted

A well-rounded education can prepare candidates for starting in the job. But the essential of journalism is learned on the job, magazine editors think.

Here is a list of the top 5 important and least important skills.


The authors conclude suggest that educators should focus on encouraging behaviour and attitude “such as enthusiasm, willingness to learn new things and take direction, passion for learning, creativity, confidence, self-motivation, and a solid work ethic.”

Skills vs. Personality

Even though this study is from 2005, the view on skills vs. personality is a refreshing and unorthodox one. So far, I haven’t found other articles that look into behaviour and attitude rather than competences and skills.

Whether attitude always trumps learning – or whether a good attitude also fosters better learning – is not discussed in the article. It would be interesting to see those two concepts unfolded.

The article was printed in June 2005 in Journalism & Mass Communication Educator and it is available for purchase here.

Redefining Journalist Roles

Redefining the Roles of the Journalist





Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab at American University, believes there could be a greater role for journalism education than the current one

“Journalism schools, in my view, should be recasting themselves as a gateway to just about any career a student wants to have. If it happens to be in journalism, that’s fine (…) Journalism skills are a great baseline for medical, law or business degrees.”

He is one of the many people interviewed in the report “Above and Beyond. Looking at the Future of Journalism Education” from the Knight Foundation on the future of journalism education” by Dianne Lynch.

Even though the report was written in 2015, it seems very fresh indeed on its outlook on the challenges of the media industry. Lynch concludes that while the essence of journalism hasn’t changed, the way journalists work has been revolutionised. The new journalist roles makes an upgrade of journalism education needed NOW!

New Journalists Roles

Journalism schools and media professionals agree that he current education does not keep up with the changes in the field. Almost half of industry people and close to 40 per cent of the educators say that education is behind.

But what does the changes in the field mean for the roles of the journalist today? Lynch interviews journalism educators and industry people to establish these new journalist roles and concludes we must be:

  1. Analysts, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs: journalist students must work interdisciplinary and learn teamwork, design processes, and an enhanced understanding of the business of media-product start-ups.
  2. Community builders and mobilizers: the journalist must know how to engage the audience in conversation by knowing user engagement, communicating with your audience and how to use social media to expand and extend your audience.
  3. Business orientated: because the division between business models and journalism is fading since advertising revenue has been replaced by a patchwork of income sources.

Lack of Knowledge within Journalism Schools

There are many obstacles before journalism schools can teach those skills, primarily because most teachers don’t have the competencies to teach.

Actually, Hans Rosling makes the same argument in “Factfulness” – that the knowledge of academic staff is sorely out-dated and therefore our education system is teaching the past rather than the present.

Instead, Lynch says, the J-schools must find a model to teach those skills. It could be by investing in highly qualified professional instructors who would either physically or digitally deliver relevant short-courses or immersive workshops.

Also students should receive lectures and knowledge from other faculty departments e.g. in mathematics and political science. And finally, working with a digital first strategy is paramount in preparing students for real life.

You can read the full report on the journalist roles here.


Journalism as the New Knowledge Profession

“I think that this new situation makes professional journalism more important than ever. All citizen journalists’ activities, bloggers, activists, or social media fans forwarding links to news sites cannot replace the two core functions that professional journalism brings to society”.

journalism as knowledge professionCan we ensure there is a place for professional journalism today? Well, Wolfgang Donsbach suggests that we could start with raising the level of journalism education.

In order to make journalism a knowledge profession we could ask that all journalists have:

  1. A keen awareness of relevant history and current affairs, as well as analytical thinking,
  2. Expertise in the specific subjects about which he or she reports,
  3. Scientifically based knowledge about the communication process
  4. Mastered journalistic skills
  5. A conduct within the norms of professional ethics.

In  the article “Journalism as the new knowledge profession and consequences for journalism education“, Donsbach examines what a professional journalist look like.

How to Know What is Newsworthy?

The first criteria – having keen awareness of history and politics –  is a given and most schools of journalism and university programmes will demand this of their students.

Having an expertise in the subject of reporting is not a prerequisite in most newsrooms. Some journalists will even take pride in not knowing and therefore being able to ask “stupid questions” in order to explain a difficult topic to a general audience.

However, Donsbach argues, without this knowledge journalists will struggle to apply the criteria of newsworthiness. Without prior expert knowledge one doctor’s incredible view on cancer research might make the front page instead of being discarded.

The deep knowledge can be gained by a variety of methods, e.g. a dual university degree and more interdisciplinary courses on top of the common journalism courses. I would add that without the deep knowledge the journalist will be in fear of losing both legitimacy and creditability both with sources and the audience.

How to Improve Reporting

Of course, journalists need to know the academic methods in order to asses science critically and in addition. Indeed, some knowledge of communication processes might improve reporting:

“If journalists know more about audience research, they be able to present their messages in a way that might maximize not only attention to news but also, if employed in a responsible way, its cognitive processing by the audience. If they know about how public issues can be dealt with in social networks.”

When adapting to new technology and the increase of platforms, Donsbach argues that it doesn’t make sense to teach navigating the actual platforms or programmes. These change all the time. Instead, follow the example of the medical schools that emphasise learning about new techniques and not the actual techniques themselves.

What Do Employers Want?

Most American journalism educations fall short on Donsbachs wish list of five overall competences. I would say, the Danish journalism educations too. Danish journalists will most probably not have expertise in the specific subjects or scientifically based knowledge about the communication process when graduating.

What is the point of trying to professionalise the journalism profession if the employers do not want it? Donbach refers to Debora Wengers study on the job adds where employers want candidates with practical skills, experience and technical knowhow rather than subject expertise, ethics and scientific insights.

Convergence: A Love-Hate Relationship Between Media and Audience

“It must be clear that contemporary citizen-consumers demand the right to participate”.

Deuze, Mark (2009): Media Industries, Work and Life. European Journal of Communication.

Being a media professional, one has a tendency to overstate ones own industry and profession.

As a journalist and researcher into journalism education even more so, since many aspects of modern life seem to revolve around or simply involve media.

Reading Mark Deuzes article “Media Industries, Work and Life” has confirmed my belief that media influences all aspects of life today. Deuze examines the concept of convergence and even expands it into a world of a “mediapolis” (Silverstone coined the term in 2006).

Not only do we interact through media, we live in media rather than with media, Deuze suggests. The role of the media in people’s lives includes the production, content and consumption of media.

Amateurs Unite

The media industry is using this consumer behaviour and by doing so the complexity of managing both content and organisations increase as well.

“The ongoing merger of production and consumption across the various media, cultural, and creative industries signals the emergence of a global convergence culture, based on an increasingly participatory and interactive engagement between different media forms and industries, between people and their media, as well as between professional and amateur media makers.”

Studies from among others the OECD and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project suggest that people “make media when the use media” e.g. maintaining a blog; creating or working on a personal webpage; sharing original content such as artwork, photos, stories, or videos online; and remixing content found online.

A Liquid Relationship

The convergence means that it is no longer professionals that define or develop the content; today audiences, sources, and sponsors partake in the (co-) creation of media content and experiences. Rather than people or physical products, the media production is about skills, values and ideas.

The convergence happening in both production and consumption has led to a more fragmented and uncertain labour market for the journalism profession. The relationships with the audience “are both reciprocal and antagonistic. Such liquid relationships are seldom stable, generally temporary, and at the very least unpredictable.”

What Now?

Where does it leave us, the journalists, as a profession? Well, in order to find our new role in this convergent society we could aim for making journalism a knew knowledge profession as suggested by Donsbach.

Help Wanted – Journalism Skills Needed in US Media

Which journalism skills must we teach in order to get our students a job?

journalism skillsThat is the question Debora Halpern Wenger, Lynn C. Owens and Jason Cain asks in the study “Help Wanted: Realigning Journalism Education to Meet the Needs of Top U.S. News Companies” from 2018.

In a time during the deconstruction of journalism, how do we determine which journalistic skills to teach and which to cast aside?

Universities and journalism schools have a hard time keeping up with the demand for rethinking journalism and adding new tech skills to the curricula, previous studies show.

Help Wanted

And what are the exact journalism skills we need to teach? One way of determining this is by examining the needs of the employers expressed through job postings.

For many years, Deborah Wenger has examined the American journalism job market by comparing 1,100 journalism job openings from 2015 with the 700 five years previously. All posts were from either the top 10 newspaper or top 10 broadcast journalism companies in the US. The research team examined the skills mentioned and listed them:

Top 20 journalism skills

Unsurprisingly, the need for different skills are due to a change in audience behaviour, so multiplatform skills and social media proficiency is high on the list of demands. The old way of telling the audience what news is has been replaced by a circle of interaction where the audience now train the journalists via clicks.

What Do Employers Really Want?

For the experienced journalists in broadcast and print media the skills most valued according to the posting were Previous experience, Working under tight deadlines, Writing, Web/Multimedia and Being a Team Player.

Most of all, the employers want more! The demands for skills have increased from the first analysis in 2010 to the one in 2015:

“ more than a third of positions (33%) required web/multimedia skills—now it is nearly two thirds of all jobs (62%). Working under pressure and tight deadlines increased from 28% to 56%, and working as a team player jumped from 27% to 52% in those 5 years. Social media grew from references in 2% of job postings in 2010 to 47% of all job postings”.

What is even more interesting is, that the number of journalism skills wanted is growing overall. The media simply wants candidates with both the old journalistic values and skills and a technical toolbox to navigate in this new and fast moving news cycle. The 2015 job postings were more detailed and close to every tenth of them listed 20 skills or more.

I’ll Tell You Want I Want

Here are some snippets from different entry-level job ads in 2015:

“You should be a self-starter comfortable working in multiple types of media: reporting and writing stories; shooting photos and videos with an iPhone; and immersed in the networks of social media to help spread the word about your great work.”

 “You should be nimble and able to tailor your approach to stories to satisfy audiences viewing your work in print or on a desktop browser, mobile device or tablet.”

“Writes platform-appropriate headlines and social-media posts that are engaging, enticing, tone-appropriate and maximizes SEO.”

“Use provided online analytics tools to track page views, comments and social media engagement—and uses that information to make content more or less prominent.”

In comparison to a large European report on skills – Newsreel – New Skills For The Next Generation Of Journalists – there is surprisingly little emphasis on ethics or data analysis.

What’s Next?

The good news is that there are still jobs out there for journalists to get. The bad news is that journalists are expected to master more tasks and more complicated tasks, too. It need not be the end of journalism per se but it may be the end of old-fashioned journalism, as we know it.

Journalism itself is being redefined and deconstructed as we speak and on a positive note we are engaging more with the audience through social media. On the other hand, the ever-growing number of skills will leave many young journalists exasperated and many old journalists out of a job.

No one type of education is able to teach a multitude of journalism skills.  One way forward could be to make specialised education and this I will examine further along in the project.

Find the article in the journal Journalism & Mass Communication Educator journal here.

Framing The Journalist Toolbox

Framing my research question!

FutureofjournalismAnyone out there who has ever done an academic degree will know how difficult it is to narrow one’s research question and do it well.

After reading literature and research articles for the past 30 days, I have embarked on my methodology and currently, I am trying to conceptualise my research for The Journalist’s Toolbox.

If you want a brief explanation on the project and why I started it, have a look this blog post.

Not being a trained academic this is difficult. The last time I was involved in research was when I took my Master’s Degree in Journalism at University of Queensland and did my thesis. It was over 10 years ago and I feel the rust, believe me.

Humble beginnings not all bad

On the other hand, being away from scholarly research gives me a couple of advantages as well. For instance, I am humbled and not at all confident in my own abilities, which will make me work harder (!) In addition, I perceive the obstacles to journalism and the future of journalism in a practical manner, not academic. This might prove to bring some new ideas and insights into this project.

It could also prove detrimental to the cause; not knowing enough or having the knowledge of what I don’t know could leave me with gaping holes in both my argumentation and methodology.

Visualisation helps to conceptualise

Sometimes, I have a better understanding of things when I can visualise what I am trying to do. This is a very first attempt to dissect the different topics I need to examine and explain before I can move forward and actually develop the categories for the future roles of journalists.

Want to have a look at journalism education in four different European countries? Read about the Newsreel New Skills research report here.

The drawing will help me a little, I hope. It shows that my attempt is to have a bigger overlap between the journalism education and the journalism practice. I would also like to see journalism education look to the future rather than be based in the past.

Take a chance

This will probably make many academics and journalism educators shake their head! Because it would mean taking chances with developing a new curricula and that would take the courage to incorporate disciplines from other professions such as IT, and business.

Have comments for me? Feel free to e-mail me here and tell me what you think.

The Journalist's Toolbox

Shopping News – What the Audience Does Before the News

shopping newsCokley, John (2015): Shopping News: Agenda Finding, What the Audience Does Before the News. Australian Scholarly Publishing.

Can we put a price on journalism?

That is the interesting question that John Cokley* raises in his book Shopping News: Agenda Finding, What the Audience Does Before the News. He answers that we can and we should. Because:

(…) the single most important thing missing from journalism in the 21st century has been an ability to judge the cost of supplying journalism products against whatever demand is evident in the community: in other words, no one has seriously conducted a real-world benefit-cost analysis of journalism. (p. 9)

Cokley examines the phenomenon of shopping in order to suggest new business models that can be applied by journalists. In essence, we should see journalism as a product and hold it to common business standards such as value for money, correct labelling and satisfaction levels after consumption.

Cokley suggests that instead of journalists assuming that the readers are interested in whatever they report, we should indeed ask our audiences which problems and issues they are concerned about on a daily basis. Furthermore, journalism should provide solutions to those problems.

Agenda Finding

It sounds somewhat like constructive journalism but without the grand ideal of making the world a better place, more like being a service or a product. And how do we find these problems or Agenda Finding, as Cokley calls it? Simply by using research methods such as modelling and simulation theory and applying it to journalism, the nature of news would change.

The current way of telling news – the news pyramid – with the main lead first is driving readers away and does little to enhance the value of news reporting, he argues. This is because it makes the product worth knowing but not necessarily buying and he goes further and argues “if we continue to use the old-fashioned journalism tool-box, we’ll go out of business.” (p. 138).

Male Biased News and Newsrooms

Cokley attacks the current news criteria identified in 1965 – consequence, proximity, conflict, human interest, novelty and prominence – for being male biased, like the whole media industry. He partakes an experiment and takes over the cleaning and grocery shopping for his family household for two months in order to examine how his choices on shopping changes with experience.

It does. And it brings him to the realisation that we should see journalism as a product and a media outlet as a shop with a variety of range and prices. He suggests three categories: ‘essential’ like air, food and clean water, ‘useful’ such as clothes and cars, and ‘desirable’ such as a haircut.

How different the news would look if the male editors changed their daily routines on house chores, Cokley argues.

Price and Range

Every news piece should be priced accordingly to its production cost. We should design the news experience after range and price as any other shop, and we should aim for transparency of the process and of course, the need for customer orientation and customer satisfaction.

“Journalists maintain that we have to focus on discovering and reporting the truth, accurately, objectively and without fear or favour. Do we seriously think that audience members don’t also consider this a ‘given’, the basic starting need, the ‘essential’ part of the shopping contract?” (p. 183)

Cokley states that customer satisfaction should be a goal for all journalists and he has provides a simple guide to change the journalist perspective, indeed introduces a new paradigm, where journalism focuses on providing solutions to real world problems.

Shopping News, Selling News

He adds, that instead of reducing complexity in the news stories, let it be enhanced like any chef or a wine storeowner would with their product. If not, we are doomed as a profession simply because:

(…) “the social suspicion out of which journalism grew in the 17th century and which resulted in what we now call ‘watchdog journalism’ has now become our undoing. In an ironic manifestation of the boy who cries wolf, the more journalists tell their audiences that politicians, police and big business owners are not to be trusted, that they must be ‘scrutinised’ and ‘watched’, the more our audiences distrust everyone, including journalists.” (p. 126)

Want to know more about the Shopping News? Read more about Cokley’s 16 models for journalism action here or visit his own website here.

*Disclaimer: Cokley is my former professor at University of Queensland and I have worked as his teaching assistant, too.

Reinventing Journalism as an Entrepreneurial Enterprise

Entrepreneurial EnterpriseSinger, Jane B. (2018) Reinventing Journalism as an Entrepreneurial Enterprise, Remaking the News, edited by Boczkowski, Pablo J and Anderson C.Q.

Which direction should journalism studies take?

There are multiple options and Jane B. Singer makes a compelling case for choosing to educate future journalists to be entrepreneurs.

Most academic research on journalism has looked into the skillset and work practices of a traditional newsroom. But the majority of journalists today are no longer employed there and have left – most of them because of cutbacks. Instead, many of them become freelancers or small business owners.

One of the large changes within the role of a self employed journalist is that one has to set up a value proposition – and cross that border between business and journalism that has been upheld in the legacy media. The term defines radio, television, and especially newspapers that has no interaction with its users / audience.

The Death of Legacy Media

The legacy media rests on former economic and political environments that no longer exist. Millennial consumption of these types of media is minimal and likely to decline further.

Like any other crumbled monopoly, the news media today is facing the daunting task of reinventing itself now that information truly flows free and wild. For the past century, the media has been build on two revenue sources, audiences and advertisers. And now both of them are in decline, we need a new breed of journalists, Singer argues.

We need business savvy journalists because digital start-ups with free content with a diversified revenue stream from event hosting to crow funding and consultancy services have proven successful. In that mix is also native advertising and non-profit journalism. Singer concludes that the entrepreneurial journalist is much needed because:

“For the legacy journalists who leave a traditional newsroom to join or create their own news enterprise, perhaps the most jarring change the encounter is the dramatic narrowing of the distance between themselves and two key (and overlapping) constituencies: those who consume their product and those who finance it.” (page 204.)

The “division of church and state” within journalism – the separation of editorial and commercial activities – is no longer a given in this day and age. This prospect may be frightening to legacy news journalists, however it may be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to making journalism valuable to its customers.

Which other types of journalist would be relevant to educate? Read the blog on the book Den Journalistiske Forbindelse and the engaging journalist here.

Want to explore the essays on the future of journalism? Find the book here.

Report review: Newsreel – New Skills For The Next Generation Of Journalists

Should journalism education embrace the current challenges and develop the journalists’ skills on ethics, data, business models?

New skilssOf course, it should. However, how quickly that should happen and to what extend are grounds for debate. The report Newsreel; New Skills for the Next Generation of Journalists from Erasmus+ analyses the current and future of journalism education where a group of researchers analyse and compares Hungary, Romania, Portugal and Germany.

The researchers have chosen four key foci; Data Journalism, Collaboration, Business Models, and Journalism Ethics. These categories are interesting and I have arranged a meeting with some of the authors here in Lisbon next week and talk on the research. Well, back to the report.

Old Skills Are Still There

In order to establish how the journalism educations have implemented and are thinking about the future, the different journalism degrees are analysed. On top of that the journalism educators are interviewed as well as industry leaders on the skills needed in the future.

Pretty much everyone agree that the old school skills such as research and fact finding, critical thinking and writing are at the core of journalism and should be the main focus of any journalism study. On how to proceed with teaching new trends and skills such as coding and creating business models, there is much scepticism:

”One common theme presented by journalism educators was that there is no need to follow every trend, that journalism education should not try to include and embrace every new development in the industry, but teach core competences and only those trends that are significant.” (page 90)

and later on page 92:

“Other obstacles facing innovators in journalism and journalism education is the resistance to innovation by colleagues or supervisors who do not see the need for any transformation.”

Data Journalism, yes Please

All four countries acknowledge the importance of data analysis, however implementing it into the curricula is a different matter. Most analysed study programmes teach data journalism in one way or another, but not all offer data journalism as a specific course and instead integrate it into other courses.

In Germany, this topic is a must in all six universities, however the courses and the amount of acquired knowledge vary greatly. The consensus is that some degree of data analysis is important for journalists, however there is difficulty in finding affordable teachers on the topic.

New Business Models not so Much

However, when it comes to teaching business models and strategies for projects, the courses are few and far in between. Most scholars and especially journalists agree that there is a need but making it a part of the curricula is not so easy.

Some of the explanation is due to a lack of professors with practical knowledge, others like the Michael Brüggemann from University of Hamburg believes that this issue is best handled by media managers and not journalists. Universities in Portugal and Romania beg to differ and offer specific courses on business model and financing. One university has a personal branding course for future freelance journalists, which is the Budapest Metropolitan.

New Ethical Challenges Ahead

All journalism educations teach ethics, although it is somehow neglected in Hungary while ethics plays a minor role in Portugal and Romania. And Hungary stands out as the country lacking behind on all four topics. The Romanian journalism professor Gabriel Hasmațuchi from the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu says:

“Students told us that when they were hired, people in the media advised them to forget all the rubbish that they learned in journalism school, to forget ethics.”

Collaborative journalism

The fourth – and probably newest topic – is collaborative journalism as in large projects often internationally scoped such as Panama Papers or the Snowden leaks. None of the universities have chosen to develop courses in this but all teaches some kind of teamwork, which would be the closest one available.

In conclusion, the report on the four countries shares much information and many interesting and noteworthy comments from journalism educators and the media industry. The authors also comment that:

“(..) from the interviews we can see that what journalists think about their curricula is different from what scholars think about it. In general, the journalists interviewed thought that the Bachelor’s programmes should involve more practice and have more teachers that work as journalists.”

The conflict between academics and journalists always loom in the background. The report documents that the journalism education of the four countries is old fashioned and lacking behind the latest trends and knowledge.

The explanation is – as always – the availability of time, money and teachers. However sound that explanation is, the resistance towards integrating new and precious knowledge into the curricula is disheartening when considering the current climate of journalism today.

Read a resume here and find the link for the entire report here.