Poynter Institute Survey Reveals ‘Disconnect’ Between Journalists and Educators

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poynter post picA recent survey by the Poynter Institute shows that working journalists and journalism professors aren’t exactly on the same page when it comes to ranking the importance of multimedia and digital storytelling skills.

Poynter’s survey, “The Core Skills for the Future of Journalism,” uncovered glaring differences regarding the importance that working journalists and journalism educators attach to multimedia skills, including AV editing, photography and graphic design.

Overall, the survey showed that educators rank multimedia and digital storytelling skills as being much more important than journalism professionals.

The survey asked professionals, educators and students to rate the importance of 37 key journalism skills and knowledge areas.

For example, with photography, regarded by many as an essential skill for today’s smartphone-wielding journalists, 53 percent of professionals said that the ability to shoot and edit photographs was important to very important as opposed to 79 percent of educators.

There was also a gap between pros and educators regarding the use of audio where only 38 percent of professionals said the skills needed to record and edit audio were important as compared to more than 70 percent of educators.

“…One theory for the gap is that professionals at legacy media are so focused on the day to day that they can’t see the horizon,” said Howard Finberg, co-author of the study and director of partnerships at Poynter.

“It takes special leadership to make sure everyone knows what’s coming in the future and why it is important.”

Lauren Klinger, a co-author of the Poynter survey, suggested that the daily deadline pressures of journalism could have bearing on the apparent disconnect between the two groups.

“…I think academics sometimes have the benefit of a zoomed-out view of the media landscape, while people working in the industry are constantly trying to crank out new content,” Klinger said.

In response to the survey, Karen Magnuson, an editor and vice president/news at the Democrat and Chronicle Media Group in Rochester, N.Y., wasn’t so sure that journalism schools are doing all they can to prepare new reporters.

‟Educators may think all of those things [multimedia skills] are important but the results coming out of colleges are very mixed,” she said in an email.

“My personal experience with journalism grads is that they fall into one of two categories: solid writers/reporters with limited digital skill sets or multimedia journalists who are great with video but don’t understand how to work a beat or dig much deeper than what’s given in a press release or press conference. Both types are problematic in today’s newsrooms. We need it all!”

Asked for his general impressions on the gulf between journalists and educators and what can be done to change things, Finberg said it’s a concern but not insurmountable.

“There has always been a disconnect between academia and the profession. However, our two reports show more of a gulf and that’s worrying,” Finberg said.

“Professionals and professors need each other more than ever. We’re hoping these reports help start conversations, start some reflection about the future of journalism education. As journalism is more important today than ever before, so is journalism education.”

What do you think are some of the most important skills journalists need in the digital age? Are J-schools teaching those skills? Tell us in the comments or tweet us @10000Words.