March 27, 2007

Staff Investment? Most News Organizations Would Still Rather Not

Knight Foundation training surveyA new Knight Foundation study, commissioned to conclude with the ending of our Tomorrow's Workforce project and the release of our book (News, Improved), finds that only three in 10 news organizations have increased spending on staff development in the last five years.

Worse, 20 percent have decreased spending on training and 10 percent don't spend a nickel. And this at a time when the news industry faces its greatest challenges of learning new skills. (Read a summary and stats of the summary in this PDF.)

The study also found that:

 90 percent of journalists say they need more training. News executives agree.
 90 percent of executives say they need more training themselves. Their staffs agree.
 96 percent of news executives say new journalists need more training when they are hired.

And that:

 Forty percent of journalists say the lack of professional development is their No. 1 gripe -- up 5 percentage points from five years ago.

Keep in mind that news industry training is already pathetic compared to the averages of all U.S. industries -- 0.4 percent of payroll for the news biz to 2.3 percent industry average, so when I see only three in 10 newsrooms spending more on their staffs I can only conclude, to borrow a pointed phrase from Eric Newton of Knight, only 30 percent of newspapers intend to survive.

Professional development -- like product development -- is critical to the future of news. We need to equip today's journalists -- and those of tomorrow -- with the skillset and the mindset to not only survive, but thrive in whatever future comes their way.

Training can do that. It improves skills. It changes thinking. It converts culture from defensive to constructive. And -- most importantly -- professional investment in journalists by their employers signals that their work is worth saving. Too many companies still don't see it that way.

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Posted by Tim Porter at March 27, 2007 02:07 PM