Training bosses have questioned the ‘traditional’ route into journalism via local papers in a report published today.
The report, commissioned by the National Council for the Training of Journalists, takes a wide-ranging look at the future of the industry in the wake of the digital revolution and the Leveson Inquiry.
Entitled ‘Emerging Skills for Journalists’, the report suggests that the “shrinkage” of the local press sector has left a question mark over whether local papers will remain the main entry route into the profession.
It also raises “serious concerns” about the “hollowing out” of the workforce, with a lack of more senior, experienced journalists to guide new journalists in their early years.
The report says: “The continuing of the traditional route of entry into publishing journalism, via local and regional newspapers is questionable.
“The shrinking of this sector could be expected to lead to a declining number of employment opportunities to exist in this sector, but at present this shrinkage appears to have been offset by the increase in turnover, with journalists leaving after a few years for more lucrative opportunities in PR and corporate communications.
“Whether the regional and local newspaper sectors wish, or are able, to continue to be the training ground for the sectors journalists seems to be the issue here.
“With the increase in journalists across related sectors, a question is whether entry to journalism can be via a non-traditional core employer? For example, could a future trainee work towards and gain the NCTJ’s professional qualification whilst working in any other environment other than a newsroom?”
The report’s other key findings include:
- The business environment, digitisation and the Leveson Inquiry have created, and will continue to create, dramatic changes within journalism.
- There is a changing age balance of journalists, with older, more experienced, journalists being replaced by younger workers.
- The increasing use of non-journalists to develop content, and the intensification of work is raising issues around maintaining the quality of journalism.
- Photographic and video skills are increasingly needed by all journalists as part of their skillset.
The report says: “It seems clear that within the journalists employed, there has been a re-balancing from older to younger journalists.
“Two factors are given for this trend: either a cost-based one with the replacement of expensive (older) journalists with cheaper (younger) ones (with the obvious implications for wages and wage costs), but also a skills reason, with the change driven by the need to recruit the different skillsets that younger journalists may have (greater awareness of IT, social media, etc).
“However, there are serious concerns about this changing balance of the workforce, with a particular concern that it has led to a hollowing out of the workforce, with a lack of more senior, experienced journalists to guide new journalists in their early years at work.
“This is thought to be impacting on the way that journalism is carried out, including the maintenance of ethical standards, and can have a damaging impact.
It goes on: “The use of non-journalists to develop content brings with it a number of issues, including maintaining the quality of output, whether the non-journalists have received adequate training in the legal aspect and ethical considerations of journalism, how they are supervised, and particularly whether they require journalistic supervision to ensure that legal and ethical boundaries are not crossed.”
The report also says the “increasing intensification of work” – with fewer journalists to produce the same output – was leading to a “general lowering of the quality of work, with less originality and creativity, with less time being made available for ‘proper’ investigative journalism.”
Three leading industry figures – Society of Editors boss Bob Satchwell, Archant London editorial director Laura Adams, and Derby Telegraph editor Neil White discuss the report’s findings on HTFP today.