A regional editorial chief has raised concerns about job applicants being “absolutely terrified” of conducting face-to-face or telephone interviews.
KM Group editorial director Ian Carter, left, has remarked on the problem in a report on talent and diversity in modern newsrooms, which has been produced by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.
Ian was interviewed for the study, which also focused on the issue of the diminishing number of journalists from working class backgrounds entering the industry.
HTFP has previously reported on journalism trainers including Paul Wiltshire, of the University of Gloucestershire, and Richard Horsman, of Leeds Trinity University, going public on their bids to tackle “phone phobia” among their students.
Quoted in the Reuters report, Ian said: “The two most important things I look for in a reporter are the ability to have one-to-one conversations with people from all walks of life. And that is something that has really changed over the past few years because people come in to us with lots of technical skills.
“But because they live their lives on social media, they are absolutely terrified of picking up the telephone and talking to somebody or talking to someone face-to face. They are so used to doing everything via instant messaging or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or whatever.
“And, actually, the number of people that can hold a conversation with somebody – it becomes a real challenge for us. They come around literally scared. ‘What do you mean, I have to call somebody up?’ ‘Well, yeah, you wanna talk to them, you cannot just rely on tweeting them!’ And that’s a real challenge for them so we really, really home in on that.”
Ian has since clarified that his comments related to applicants for jobs and those on work experience, rather than journalists actually working for the KM Group.
Speaking to the report’s authors, he also addressed the issue of social diversity within regional newsrooms.
Ian, who himself comes from a working class background, said: “I do think it is a challenge that you get fewer and fewer working class journalists or indeed people that represent their own communities, be that ethnicity or any other kind of criteria. So I do think it is becoming far more of a middle-class profession, which is something I’ve always tried to fight against.”
Speaking to HTFP, he added: “A diverse newsroom is really important, which is why we have a long-running apprentice scheme. Of course, you don’t need to be working class to be an apprentice but it does level the playing field.
“The concept of some applicants being scared to pick up the phone is an oft-aired concern. It’s a valid one though and is why we place so much importance on people skills when recruiting.”