Journalism job research finds writing and news judgment still top skills required

Yong Volz and Lei Guo

New research by Associate Professor Yong Volz and doctoral student Lei Guo found that writing and news judgment remain top skills required by employers in an evolving journalism industry.

Research inspired after school faculty began examining how to improve curriculum for industry needs

By Jennifer Nelson

Columbia, Mo. (Nov. 4, 2019) — In a time when the industry is evolving and journalists need different digital skills, a team of Missouri School of Journalism researchers set out to get a better idea of what employers want by studying 669 journalism job ads.

The research team, which consisted of Associate Professor Yong Volz and doctoral student Lei Guo, found that writing and news judgment remain top skills required by employers, according to ads from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2017. At the same time, the team also discovered that marketing skills were eighth in a list of 26 possible skills that employers could be looking for.

The research “(Re)defining journalistic expertise in the digital transformation: A content analysis of job announcements,” was published online by the Journalism Practice journal. It was inspired after journalism school leadership and faculty at MU began examining the school’s curriculum and newsroom operations at the School’s newsrooms – KOMU-TV, KBIA-FM and the Columbia Missourian – to keep them competitive with the continually evolving journalism industry, said Volz.

The process included “gauging the industry pulse in terms of the trends, needs and concerns of news organizations,” by visiting newsrooms and interviewing dozens of news staff across the country, said Volz, who decided to take the research a step further by looking at job ads, too.

The research team also found that multimedia skills are a highly-sought-after skill with it being listed in 93 percent of broadcasting ads and 79 percent of print ads.

“Students always come to me and ask why they have to learn video shooting and editing, especially those students in radio or magazine writing areas,” said Guo, who helps teach the Fundamentals of Multimedia Journalism course. “So, by using this paper, I can let them understand that nowadays, multimedia skill is a very important skill required by the newsrooms.”

In addition to skills, the two researchers found that employers are looking for certain occupational personality traits in job candidates such as being “outgoing,” “easy-going,” “enterprising” and “collaborative.” They also listed soft skills including organization, adaptability, interpersonal communication and leadership as important skills.

As the researchers were looking over the ads, they noticed some differences in the quality of the ad listings. Some provided detailed information including a description of the news outlet, specific qualifications and job duties, and some even included information about prospective career development opportunities. On the other hand, some job ads were brief and unclear with only a generic list of duties and responsibilities, said Volz.

“A good job ad helps potential employees understand and appreciate their own work as part of the organization and thus can motivate their job performance,” said Volz. “We would encourage news organizations to put more thoughts on crafting their job ads and emphasize shared goals and relevance between journalists and the news organizations they will work for.”

Updated: November 10, 2020

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