How to Fill the Skill Gaps
An association web content developer
says many new graduates lack in-depth knowledge and experience in modern
journalism. The answer? Save your red pens and guide your new hires into
continuous education instead.
After a publication brings on a new
hire, growing pains are expected. Entering a new production cycle is like
sitting in a parked car that’s suddenly picked up by a crane and dropped onto a
busy highway: Hit the gas, adapt to the flow of traffic, and try not to cause
Your association’s new college-grad
hires are being dropped onto that speeding highway after just passing a
driver’s test. And they’re going to have to learn from a few fender benders.
Journalism graduates don’t necessarily
lack one particular skill, says Dan Polley, who served as the web producer and
social media director for Journal Community Publishing Group in Wisconsin
before joining the American Society for Quality (ASQ) as a web content
developer. He sees today’s graduates lacking in-depth knowledge and experience
in many areas of modern journalism.
"They might enter the workforce with
a base of knowledge on video editing and production, and some social media
experience,” Polley says. "But then they lack a basic understanding of HTML and
other web code, or basic design principles. Or maybe they never shot
photographs or video in their prior work. These examples are particularly
evident in many smaller journalism jobs that require a mix of design, editing,
Rather than teaching your new
journalists by exhausting the association’s storeroom of red pens, encourage
them to seek continuing education programs to help fill their skill gaps. And
emphasize that college was the start — not the end — of their education.
Poynter’s News University is a useful online media and journalism training program. It
has more than 300 topics to choose from. Many of its courses are free or under
$50. They’re available in formats such as self-paced courses, webinars, or
Lynsey Hart, ASQ’s newsletter editor
and a 2013 college graduate, has taken many Poynter courses and appreciates its
wide range of topics. "I’m taking How to Edit Marketing Materials with Savvy
and Sense to learn how to better maintain brand standards, tone, and voice in
my editing process.”
Poynter also has courses on topics
that delve into technical elements of publishing — such as photojournalism,
video production, design and graphics — and others that are geared toward
social media, marketing, or branding.
To keep pace with today’s evolving
journalism landscape, Polley feels new journalists should focus on enhancing
their skills in technical areas, such as photography, design, code, social
media, or videography. "When there are new, popular social networks — or new
trends like GoPro videos or podcasting — try them,” he says. "Think about how
you could use them.”
Many community colleges offer
non-degree programs in these areas. And they can be much cheaper than
university courses. For example, in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Area Technical College
charges about $450 for its TV and Video Production Co-Op course. While the
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a public university, charges state residents
over $600 for a one-credit summer course.
Recent graduates also might be hit
with a cold bucket of water after they realize their new jobs entail more than
just reporting and editing. They also might have duties such as monitoring and
analyzing Google Analytics data or some form of revenue reporting, which someone
else handled at their campus newspapers. Or, they might need to know how to
make a business case for why their organization should take up their ideas.
"In journalism school, you’re sort
of in this bubble that makes you think everyone understands the importance of
things like social media, responsive design, and not using comic sans font,”
Hart says. "But that bubble pops very quickly when you enter the real world.
It’s important that you can back these ideas up with hard numbers. At the very
least, you should be able to prepare a basic business document to support
spending five hours a week on Twitter, or a couple thousand dollars on a new
web design or platform.”
These types of reports also could
require a firm understanding of Excel. There are a lot options for Excel
training, but don’t forget that YouTube and Google searches can yield quick
answers to your cell-formula and graph-creation quandaries. And Excelexposure.com offers free training
guides and videos.
"There are quite a few things I want
to learn that I didn’t have a chance to cover in journalism school: coding,
data analysis, and another foreign language,” Hart says. "There are so many
things you can learn, and the field is so competitive that you must keep
A report by Poynter and the Knight
Foundation, "Constant Training: New Normal or Missed Opportunity,” explained
that the seemingly exponential changes of the digital-age are happening faster
than training is becoming available, pointing out, "In today’s world, no one is
ever fully trained.”
Tyler Gaskill is assistant editor, Quality
Progress, published by ASQ.
Consider filling your own skill gaps by attending
Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting this
June. Early Bird rates end April 30th!
And exhibiting vendors and service suppliers
— don’t forget, you get two full conference registrations with your booth
reservation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org