Teaching Examples

If 37 percent say they want more training, what training do they need?
April 9, 2007, 2:28 pm
Filed under: education, jobs, journalism, multimedia, newspapers, online, teaching, training

In a survey of 435 managing editors and editors-in-chief of regional, local, national and international newspapers (conducted by the World Editors Forum), 37 percent of respondents said they would train journalists in new media skills; 23 percent would recruit more journalists; 19 percent would retrain in traditional skills.

Being in the journalism education business, this is not big news to me. But something new has recently started to sink in: These managing editors and editors-in-chief don’t know where to start.

I’m sometimes contacted by editors and journalism organizations who would like me to come and do some training for them. As I’m busy with my day job, my first question is always, “What do you want?” If I were a full-time trainer, I suppose I would have a take-out menu and they could choose one from column A, one from column B, etc.

Last year, people were replying to my question this way: Come and do 90 minutes, or three hours, and give us kind of an overview of multimedia.

This year is different. They’re replying: Everything. Anything. What should we do? You tell us.

I’ve been a little bit thrown for a loop by this. I don’t know what YOU need, because every newsroom is different.

When I press them, many of these folks ask me to come and teach them Flash. Now, nothing makes me happier than teaching Flash. But most newspapers do not need more than one person who’s good at Flash. Let’s say maybe you want to have three or four people doing Flash … you want to fly me somewhere to do training for four people? What are you thinking?

Like Koci says:

Soundslides or Flash? Put it this way, if you don’t know what Soundslides is, then there’s no need to even think about Flash. And if you haven’t mastered Soundslides (meaning, brought someone to tears with your two minute Soundslide) there there is no reason to be thinking about Flash.

He is so right — with one exception. Your news graphics desk. Those people should be learning Flash. They should not learn Soundslides. Your photographers should learn Soundslides (like, yesterday). But your news graphics artists — you do have more than ONE, don’t you? Don’t you? — should start learning Flash today.

And there’s the biggest problem: The newsroom does not know what it needs. Why not? I think it’s because everyone is so busy with work overloads brought on by staff cuts, they don’t have time to look at the great stuff people are producing online. They hear that the photographers should start learning video, but how much online video — video that was really produced for online, and for journalism — have they looked at? If you were looking at what’s out there, you’d have such a better idea of what training you really do need in your newsroom.

You do need training in your newsroom — you’re right. And you should spend some money to get it — that’s a fact. But before you go throwing money at a perceived problem, please first take a closer look at what your problems are.

You need at least one good full-time staff artist. For heaven’s sake, if you have no original information graphics in your newspaper, no wonder circulation is falling. How do you explain anything nowadays without graphics?

You need to get audio equipment and Soundslides for your photographers.

You need to train the reporters in how to shoot video and WHAT to shoot — if you’re giving them cameras.

You need to fix your pathetic content management system so that your online people can do nice work for your Web site instead of spending hours cleaning up the mess made by the lousy CMS.

Yes, I know, you DO NEED training. But all the training in the world won’t improve your news organization if you don’t even understand what kind of training you need — and what kind of staffing you need — and what kind of equipment and software your people need. And yes, you can hire a consultant to come in and help you with that. (That’s not what I do — that’s a little longer-term than I have time for. But there are people out there who can help you figure out what you need, and how to go about getting it!)

Let’s get our ducks in a row. Training — yes, absolutely. Which training, and for whom? You need to work on that answer.

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2 Comments so far
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Yes, I know, you DO NEED training. But all the training in the world won’t improve your news organization if you don’t even understand what kind of training you need — and what kind of staffing you need — and what kind of equipment and software your people need.

A hearty amen to all that. I’d just add that the publisher and editor need to have some sort of bigger vision – moving to a web-first mindset and building the best damned web presence in the area. if the ultimate goal is in mind, i really believe people could figure out the types of training they need to focus on (including advertising dept. folks).

Comment by Murley

Addendum: is it just me, or does 37 percent actually seem *low* considering all the changes taking place these days?

Comment by Murley

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