Monday, March 28, 2011

'Bloodletting' may be done, but newspaper hiring still slow

I haven't made my way through the full "State of the News Media 2011" report, but was buoyed by this sentence: "In newspapers, the bloodletting seemed to have eased somewhat."

Yet here's an accompanying graphic from the report, released this month by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (click to enlarge):

Yes, that sentence had more to it:
"After losing close to a third of its editorial ranks in the previous decade, and 11,000 in just three years, the nation’s newspapers trimmed only marginally in 2010. We estimate losses of about 1,100 to 1,500 people, or 3% to 4%. By recent standards, that is an improvement, although it leaves the largest newsrooms in most American cities bruised and necessarily less ambitious than they were a decade ago."

The report pegs the peak of full-time employment in newsrooms at 56,400 in 2000, before the free fall of 11,000 that corresponded to the Great Recession (2007-09).

There was a bright spot, though, according to the report: "2010 also marked a thaw in the news hiring climate" as newspapers began filling slots emptied when workers were laid off or left of their own accord. Some wooing of talent from one news outlet to another also was evident in that re-staffing or as new online news operations debuted.

Indeed, the mainstream job boards display many, many more help-wanted ads these days than they did during the doldrums: offered 800 today; listed nearly 1,500 (sales jobs are mixed there with newsroom ones).

But as the Pew report stated, job qualifications may be changing: "If the emerging business model is to add multiple, smaller revenue streams together, newsrooms will need soon to develop an assortment of sub-specialists while keeping up their general reporting and editing capacity." That's likely to mean newsrooms will have to juggle traditional skills with online ones to meet "the distinct demands of writing and editing for smartphones, for tablets and the next hot format to come along," according to the report.

My future then? As a jack of all trades, as shown in this ad from a regional cable news operation: "This position is responsible for anchoring, field anchoring, reporting, writing, shooting and editing stories, breaking news or news programs as directed by the assignment desk, executive producers, or news director." (The ad just as easily could have come from a newspaper, no?)

After presenting a long list of "essential job functions," the ad concluded thusly, as most do: "Performs other duties as assigned."

I'm exhausted already.

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