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Welcome to Newsroom21

Photo credit: Osama Saeed Bhutta (used with permission under Create Commons license)
Photo credit: Osama Saeed Bhutta (used with permission under Create Commons license)

The composition of the workforce in newsrooms has been evolving for decades, but in recent years there has been a rapid acceleration in the change in skills required to work in journalism. In 2014, Gannett announced it was revamping The Tennessean’s newsroom, letting go of a number managers, hiring a new consumer experience director, and reimagining the role of the reporter to be a multimedia reporting job. The changes have subsequently been rolled out to a multitude of newsrooms within the Gannett family. More recently, newsrooms have started to create hybrid job roles, tasking reporters with managing social media, or structuring databases.

In our research, we are focused on examining the challenges facing managers of modern news organizations as newsrooms adapt to increasing complexity and new skill sets in the digital news environment. Our research project, Newsroom21, presents a systematic analysis of changes in newsroom workforces and changes in the prerequisite skills for news company workers. Digital and data-centric roles requiring computational science and advanced analytic skills occupy a key role in the reinvented production and distribution of news.

This is evident, for example, in the ways newsrooms are integrating algorithmic and automated production into traditional news processes. In other areas, job roles focused on consumer engagement and audience interaction are also becoming more prevalent. Also, a new area of professional expertise is emerging as computational skills and journalistic practice integrate (see our Tow colleagues’ work on Muck, specifically directed at reducing barriers between programmers and non-programmers in the newsroom). The new space is quickly developing, and yet our understanding of this transformation is skin deep.

Indeed, a recent look at job openings at the New York Daily News reveals openings for a Senior Java Developer, a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Manager, a VP of Audience Development and a Production Systems Technician. It would be hard to tell these are job opportunities at a newspaper company based on the job titles.

With Newsroom21, our goal is to examine the changing composition of newsroom workforces by analyzing the work histories, educational backgrounds, and employee skillsets of newsroom employees. The results of this study will provide publishers and managing editors with specific recommendations regarding recruiting strategies, target skills, and educational backgrounds that will complement existing newsroom workforces.

We are focusing on profiling news organizations by examining: (a) the general culture of the organization and the associated product, and (b) the composition of the workforce within the organization. Our examination will focus on a sample of the New York City news ecosystem, and using a variety of data sources we will examine changes in the past decade with regards to required skills, job titles, and previous work experience.

For more information, please check out our pilot study. As our work progresses, we will be sharing additional updates and previewing case studies from the research.