Just threeweeks ago, Fairfax was all over the news for the wrong reasons when, inresponse to cost-cutting measure that would see 115 newsroom staff beingsacked, workers went on a seven-day strike in the lead up to the release of theFederal Budget. In April, NewsCorp announced they would be culling dozens ofphotographers in favour of a hybrid combination of freelance and inhouse specialists.
Understandably,the future of journalism in Australia is constantly debated and this doesn’tjust include the workforce. There are thousands of aspiring journalists atuniversity and TAFE, with domestic enrolments in communication and media studiesexperiencing a massive increase of more than 230 per cent between 2004 and2015. The number of people with journalism qualifications has swelled by 30 percent compared with an eight per cent rise in the number of employed journalistsin the same period.
Basically,there are too any journos and not enough jobs. So, what does this mean forjournalists and the institutions offering these degrees?
The natureof what it means to be a journalist has changed
Long goneare the days of traditional newsrooms filled with sub-editors, fact checkersand specialist reporters. Modern journalism requires staff to be all that andmore, capturing their own photographs, uploading content, covering varioustopics and often, being entirely accountable for the work they produce.
Not onlyhave these roles been condensed into the responsibility of a single journalistbut a host of new skills have become necessary rather than a bonus. Graphicdesign, video editing, social media savviness and SEO expertise are more commonthan ever, and generally prerequisites for other roles that journalists takeon, such as those in communications, marketing and publishing.
Just becauseyou study journalism, that doesn’t mean you will be employed as a journalist
There is anabundance of roles that journalists have, do and will continue to fill in thefuture that aren’t merely as members of a newsroom. The skills students acquirein the process of studying journalism, such as thorough researching, cleanwriting, dealing with sources and meeting strict deadlines hold them in goodstead to build careers in public relations and media advising.
Strongdigital literacy will further increase a journalism-qualified job seeker’sprospects, with recent professions like social media managers and digitalmarketing specialists requiring a healthy mix of tech proficiency and excellentwriting skills. Then of course, there are content writers and internalcommunications officers that perform journalistic functions for a singleorganisation.
Universitiesneed to adjust to the requirements of the modern workforce
A decadeago, subjects like reporting digital news and online journalism were extremelyscarce, if not non-existent in most communications degrees. Nowadays, they areamong the most important for a journalism student. The most useful informationprocured at university are the technical skills required at a professionallevel – from basics like how to write a good lead, layout a front page andstructure a hard news story to designing infographics, editing video footageand publishing via a Content Management System (CMS).
Meta-theorysubjects, often analysing journalism and the fourth estate from a historicalperspective, can be interesting and informative to a certain point. However, itis not as applicable to a student’s career prospects as the subjects mentionedabove, and certainly shouldn’t be given precedence at the expense of practicalknowledge that employers will expect media graduates to be well-versed in.