A new snapshot of the profession from 10,000 J-school grads

August 6, 2015
Category: Uncategorized

A massive survey of two generations of journalism and communications graduates, released this morning, finds a mix of attitudes about where the profession is headed but high degrees of satisfaction with their own work and the quality of their education.

The American Press Institute’s “Facing Change” study, done jointly with 22 journalism schools, finds a third of the graduates saying they practice journalism. But many do so for commercial brands, government or political entities or entrepreneurial and tech firms. Only 41 percent of the group doing journalism work for traditional media companies.

Only 17 percent said the quality of news they see has been improving in the last five years, but 61 percent think the quality of their own journalism has gotten better over that period.

Screen shot, American Press Institute

Screen shot, American Press Institute

A remarkable 92 percent viewed their j-school experience very or somewhat favorably. Two-thirds thought the schools were most effective at teaching writing.

The report is a feast for data aficionados. My own favorite survey set was a trio of questions on challenges, benefits and negatives of technology:

— The group rated the abundance of opinion and false information of the Internet the biggest challenge to journalism quality. A broken economic model and overemphasis of owners on profit rated second and third. But those surveyed assigned relatively little importance to the near-monopoly powers of the biggest tech companies or time pressures from the 24-hour news cycle.

— On the benefits of technology to news, those surveyed were enthusiastic about anytime/anywhere access, the ease of distribution, and the potential for better reporting and storytelling. They were less likely to identify two-way conversation or decoupling from institutions as big positives.

Screen shot, American Press Institute

Screen shot, American Press Institute

— Limited resources and staffing were identified as the biggest obstacles to doing a good job, followed by “keeping up with new and changing technology” and “changing or unclear goals at my company.”

Two thirds of those working in journalism said they still expect to be working in the field in another five years. Worries about job security were moderate.

Though opinion was split, the graduates tilted negative toward sponsored content, more thinking that it was a challenge to ethics and credibility than a benefit by providing added income. The majority also believed aggregators should pay fees for original news content they use.

The survey includes breakouts by age groups, though on most questions younger and older journalists did not differ radically.

Because the survey is a first, there is no firm evidence on how these attitudes might differ from those of the golden era 15 years ago. The study could, however, be repeated in the future to gauge whether the profession is changing for the better or worse.