Some of the finest American journalism is still being done by newspapers, said Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company, one of the largest broadcast news companies in the United States.
“And yet, unfortunately, as a result of the economic pressures that the newspaper industry is under, local newspapers in particular are losing their relevance and their reach,” Symson said. “And as a result of all of the downsizing, our industry is losing a lot of these fine journalists to other careers.”
Symson, who became Scripps’ CEO in August 2017, said he wants to attract and retain the very best journalists. That’s why this week the broadcasting company announced the Scripps Journalism Journey Initiative, a multi-year initiative with Google that would help transition experienced journalists with primarily print news backgrounds into broadcast news careers. Selected journalists will be hired into full-time career positions in Scripps local and national media newsrooms. According to a press release, these positions may include beat/specialty reporter, specialty executive producer, photojournalist, editor/manager, documentary producer and copy editor.
In a written statement, David Brooks, Google’s director of global news partnerships, called the initiative a “great opportunity to support mid-career journalists looking for new challenges or a new direction to reignite the passion that drove them into journalism in the first place.”
Symson said The E.W. Scripps Company has hired many print journalists over the last several years, but a lack of infrastructure to help with the training and development of these journalists has been a barrier to bringing in more. The program promises extensive training and support, including mentoring, job shadowing, hands-on work and individual coaching.
“We intend to help the transition around writing skills, around understanding the difference between print writing and broadcast writing, around presentation, as the case may be if the person is going to make the transition to do on-air work. And if they’re not going to do on-air work, understanding the elements of producing pieces for television from a videography perspective,” Symson said. “We already think a lot of print photojournalists come to our newsrooms with the necessary video skills to be outstanding video journalists. There’s some nuance with the equipment that we use. There’s some understanding of how to work in our medium from a producing-of-the-story perspective, but (they’re) immediately transferable skills.”
Asked about whether the company is interested in journalists who have been laid off or who want to transition out of print, Symson said “any and all,” including reporters, editors, photojournalists, data reporters, specialty reporters, executive editors and managers.
Symson said the creation of this new program has everything to do with the decline of print newspapers. He called the decline problematic because the industry loses journalists with every buyout or job action at a newspaper. He added that he wants to maintain a healthy journalism ecosystem and noted that what has kept some journalists with print backgrounds from joining broadcast newsrooms is the question of developing the skills necessary for the job.
“They’ve already got the journalism part down, but they have to have the platform delivery down,” he said. “And so putting in place the infrastructure to be able to recruit, train and retain mid-career journalists and launch them into careers in Scripps newsrooms is the opportunity.”
Applications for the Scripps Journalism Journey Initiative are expected to be available in early summer. Symson said he did not have a salary range for the positions, but emphasized that these are not entry-level roles. He said the range would depend on the market, and a role in management is also different.