Friday, August 24, 2007

Journalism Jobs

Worthy of your attention is Mark Glaser's piece giving a much more nuanced view of the journalism jobs market.

The quick summary:

If you follow the world of traditional journalism, you can’t help but notice the seemingly constant stream of layoffs and buyouts at news organizations. But media observers don’t often emphasize the flip side: As newspapers and broadcasters slice their senior-level workforce, they are also quietly building their digital and online teams. ...

The staffing situation at traditional media companies is much more fluid than the simple cut-and-slash horror stories that play well in the press. The dire layoff scenarios at major news organizations are not as dire in smaller rural communities, where local newspapers and TV stations still perform well, or overseas where competition, audiences and ownership structures are different than in the U.S.


Don't stop there, though, read it all. Down in it is a section with Laurel Touby, who sold mediabistro.com for $23 million. She has a quote that I think should be read to all journalism students at least once a year. She so perfectly captures the attitude and angst of a business that on one hand takes on the trappings of a manufacturer turning out widgets and unable to break away from its production-line mentality, but on the other wants to treat its most valuable asset, its people, as though they belong to some itinerant band of troupers (journeyman is the term we use, isn't it?).

While many traditional media companies believe they’ll save money by pushing out tenured staff in favor of tech-savvier newbies, Touby thinks that’s a wrong-headed notion. She said media companies are pushing out talented people who could easily have been re-trained, and that training new hires can be just as time-consuming and costly. mediabistro.com offers classes for journalists to get digital training, and the site is reaching out to media companies to help re-train people, but is facing resistance.

“It’s a hard sell because media companies have traditionally not invested in people, they don’t invest in management training programs, they don’t invest in any kind of training of people,” Touby said. “It’s a talent industry, so it’s like ‘if you’re not good enough when you get here, you’re out!’ You swim or die, and they don’t treat their people that well. They don’t invest in human capital.”

The emphasis is mine. I read that to my class today, and you could see the lights go on.

(See also Bill Reader's take on the piece on the Community Journalism Interest Group blog.)

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