Journalism training is falling behind the reality of the profession, according to a new study on the future of journalism in Germany. The report, produced with the German Federation of Journalists (DJV), represents a warning to the media sector: aspiring journalists need to be better trained to face the realities of an ever-changing job market.
“The job situation for journalists has changed dramatically in recent years,” said Britta Gossel, the report’s author and a member of the Media and Communication Management group at Technische Universität Ilmenau. Gossel believes journalism training must evolve to reflect these changes.
A Lack of Entrepreneurial and Management Skills
The study, Quo Vadis Journalism Education?, found that while basic competences such as journalistic writing, news selection, and editing are well covered within most journalism training courses (54 percent), entrepreneurial (16.5 percent) and management (34.3 percent) skills are not.
Entrepreneurial skills, such as basic accounting, pitching stories and running a small business, are essential to the increasing numbers of journalists who work as freelancers, the report concludes. Management skills are also becoming vital as journalists employed by media organisations are often expected to take on leadership roles, such as editing, coordinating the work of other journalists within the newsroom, arranging communication with colleagues and instructing freelancers.
Hardly any of the participants of the study considered themselves well prepared for these requirements and two thirds of the survey participants said they wished these topics were given greater attention.
Gossel believes entrepreneurial skills are clearly underrepresented in all forms of training. “Just one in ten courses includes entrepreneurial skills as a training topic,” said Kathrin Konyen, a DJV board member and freelance journalist.
To reach their conclusions, researchers divided 52 education subjects into seven areas of competence and investigated the teaching methods of ten different forms of training. Interviews were conducted with 237 young journalists in the ‘grey zone’ between primary educational and primary professional activity.
Young Media Professionals Are Optimistic and Confident
The paper reveals some encouraging results too: While labour organisations and professionals draw a rather bleak picture of the stereotypical freelancer, young professionals themselves appear much more confident and open-minded towards new working models. They explicitly criticise pessimism in the profession.
The study is not without its problems. The researchers acknowledge that participants were contacted through mailing list of journalism schools and the DJV and so the majority were still in the training phase. Consequently, according to Gossel “It remains questionable, whether they can already assess which subjects of education will prove fruitful at this early point in their career”.
However, the study does not aspire to develop the holy grail of journalism training. Rather, it contributes to the endless discussion about professionalisation. It points out one aspect in particular: journalism training needs to step up its game and prepare aspiring journalists for tomorrow’s demanding requirements. This is a lesson that should be taken to heart by media professionals and educators in all countries. It is time to make the next leap forward in training a future generation of professional journalists.
First published on German EJO; translated by the author
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