The last decade has seen a massive downsizing of newsrooms across the western hemisphere. Thousands of reporters, photographers, and editors have been given severance packages, or, in the harsher cases, handed layoff messages.
One of the last major reported cuts happened at The New York Times in October last year. “The job losses are necessary to control our costs…”
When audiences turn away, urgent cuts in cost have been necessary to balance the loss of revenue. But the “old” competence also had to be exchanged for new: print-specialised layout artists for Java programmers, proof readers for SEO experts, writers for video editors.
The result: A historical record of experienced journalists on the dole. Trend spotters paint the dark picture even darker by predicting a gloomy future for anyone daring to venture into journalism today. Career Cast 2014 places newspaper reporter at #199 on their 2014 jobs rated report, slightly ahead of lumberjack at #200.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and you know it.
Media managers everywhere already have competence development as their top priority. Research is there to prove it, such as the case in this work by Martha Stone and Francois Nel, whom I had the pleasure to get acquainted with during the Wan-Ifra International Newsroom Summit in Hamburg, a couple of years ago.
However, to really turn things around, you need to act on the insight. Instead of taking on the reactive role of the defendants when media covers their own suffocation and justifying the necessity of the job cuts, kick off 2015 with a brand new, pro-active human resources strategy aimed at repackaging these extremely valuable competencies for the digital era.
Print might be dying, but journalism is still very much alive. Stop moping and start reinventing your old staff by applying their competencies in new areas.
What you need is a new professional image and a whole new view on what your “old” know-how can do.
Here are two brand new professions that only experienced journalists can carry out. They would add tremendous value to any digital media operation.
1. Coding editor: Any small- or medium-sized news media company knows how frustrating it is to work with the two paces: The pulse of the newsroom and the (slower) culture of the programmers, dealing with to-do lists consisting of security, performance, and innovation errands.
A programming news desk person who identifies what needs to be done and carries out the small fixes herself or himself will quickly become hard currency both inside the company and on the employment market.
2. Editorial advisor to the algorithm developers: The algorithm gurus are the digital era’s equivalent of the Hemingway characters of print’s grand decades.
However, few reflect on the fact that every time the developers alter the algorithms, they make an editorial decision without any editorial competence what-so-ever. This can and will have serious consequences for the brand and, ultimately, for the credibility.
A recent Facebook havoc was highlighted by Eric Meyer. Eric tragically lost his daughter last year and his painful story reveals the necessity of bringing publishing consequences into the reasoning of the programmers.
Journalists and editors who have done desk duty for years, have gained a thorough knowledge on audience preferences and reaction patterns. Publishing experience gives us insights into repercussions of certain articles or clips – obvious to the expert, but hidden to the amateur.
Here is a new but brilliant opportunity for journalists, editors, and media managers.
The brave new digital world needs us. But to be able to assist, we need to:
- Rebuild our lost professional pride.
- Humbly explore how our knowledge and experience can assist the new media world best.
- Market these new professions in order to stay in business and to attract the talents of the future.
You thought you were employing journalists and you still are, but just think about the numerous opportunities that exist in tweaking that title for future journalists.
Use this new year of 2015 as a kick starter for new HR strategies aimed at change and aimed at rebuilding success.