The journalism skills gap

News organizations rarely find new hires who have all the skills they’re looking for.  But a survey of employers conducted in the UK finds they’re most concerned about gaps in traditional journalism skills, not the multimedia skills journalists are told they need in a converging world.

The survey conducted by Britain’s National Council for the Training of Journalists, found 71% of employers reported a gap between skills new hires have and those the employers believe they need.  The main core skills on which new hires fall short?

Finding their own stories
Use of language
Writing
Media law
Shorthand
Newsgathering

Employers said new hires aren’t up to snuff in several new skills, as well, but rated these as somewhat less important.

Video: recording and editing
Writing for search
Writing for multiple platforms and 24 hour rolling news
Prioritizing ways to tell a story
Assembling news bulletins and audio/video packages
Using FOIA

Of even less concern to employers: new hires who lacked specific software knowledge, experience in hazardous assignments or skills in photojournalism or radio presentation.  Those were the kinds of things employers apparently were willing to have employees learn on the job.

Do these British results apply here in the US?  I’d say most of them probably do.  But one skill on the traditional list seems a misfit: shorthand.  The only reporter I’ve ever seen take notes in real shorthand (Gregg, I think) is Helen Thomas.  Maybe the survey was measuring the need for better note taking–I’d buy that. But shorthand?  Are they kidding?

5 Responses

  1. At journalism schools here in Canada, shorthand is considered outdated. They don’t bother to teach it, and we don’t bother to use it.

    Every journalist has their own shorthand of sorts. It’s a survival mechanism that we would surely “die” without.

  2. I can’t help but be reminded of my conversations with news directors regarding the skills TV reporters really need to succeed. They often tell me they don’t care about looks, performance, etc. – then they watch a resume for less than 10 seconds to decide if someone is worth considering as a candidate.

    My guess is that the core reporting skills will always be of primary importance, but “Finding stories” and “Newsgathering” can be improved through the use of new technologies – and I know from looking at similar research from nearly 20 years ago that “Writing” will always be on the list of areas with need for improvement.

    My thought is that new media tools are just that – tools. When they’re used to improve fundamental journalism skills, they’re terrific additions to a journalism curriculum. When they’re taught simply as “gee-whiz look what we can do” – they’re pretty worthless.

  3. I was a congressional reporter for years and recall looking jealously at the BBC and CBC reporters across the table, who were jotting every word down with short hand. None of the companies I worked for would support me taking lessons, so I didn’t pursue it.
    I’m thinking of springing for the classes myself. There were countless times I was frustrated, looking down at my notes and wishing I had invested the time to have that simple skill. Similarly, I’m glad I took typing. It was like taking Latin, but so useful when you’re on deadline and don’t have time to look at the keys.

  4. Last year I took a postgrad diploma in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, which I’d like to think provided me with a good grounding in most of the above skills – both the traditional and the new. Shorthand wasn’t compulsory but it was ‘strongly recommended’ and, wanting to make a good impression, 99 per cent of us opted in (although the fact that it involved a daily two-hour 9am class meant that numbers quickly dwindled).

    I emerged from the course with my 100wpm Teeline certificate and have to confess it’s a mixed blessing. I do occasionally use it, but am somewhat hindered by the fact that despite still being able to take the notes down pretty quickly, my ability to read them back has all but disappeared…

  5. Handy Write’s the most effective shorthand there is, for English.

    http://www.alysion.org/handy/handywrite.htm

    it’s more economical than Gregg.

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