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.

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.