The Gap Between Online Journalism Education and Practice

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Paper presented by Ying Du and Ryan Thornburg at 2010 AEJMC conference in Denver.

This study attempts to examine the discordance between education and practice by comparing online journalism professionals and educators’ perceptions of key skills, concepts, and duties for online journalism. Findings of the twin surveys suggest that differences do exist in the online context.

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The Gap Between Online Journalism Education and Practice

  1. 1. THE GAP BETWEEN ONLINE JOURNALISM EDUCATION AND PRACTICE: The Twin Surveys Ying Roselyn Du Assistant Professor School of Communication Hong Kong Baptist University Ryan Thornburg Assistant Professor School of Journalism and Mass Communication University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  2. 2. Introduction • Gap b/t newsroom and classroom – Journalism faculty: antipathy with  working press – Journalists: do not like what’s taught  in J‐schools; do not trust who teach  it • Online journalism emerged 1990s – Gap in new context – This study: compares OJ  professionals and educators’ perceptions • Skills • Concepts • Duties
  3. 3. Literature Review • Debates: what is needed in newsrooms vs what  should be taught in classrooms • From professional point of view – Media professionals dissatisfied with basic writing skills  of new graduates (Cowdin, 1985; Mabrey, 1988; Fedler,  1993 – Professional organizations and projects studies • Industry professionals and leaders not enthusiastic about  performance of JMC education • 4% of editors gave journalism school “A” grade • Half editors did not care whether new hires had a j‐degree
  4. 4. Literature Review (cont.) • Debates: what is needed in  newsrooms vs what should be  taught in classrooms • From journalism educator’s point of  view – Some educators: separation defensible • Journalism education has a greater  purpose – Some others: joined professionals in  criticizing J‐education • Distancing itself from the real world of  industry
  5. 5. Literature Review (cont.) • Debates: what is needed in newsrooms vs what  should be taught in classrooms • Comparing both camps – Studies on newspaper, broadcast, magazine  journalism • Significant differences b/t opinions of educators and  professionals – Educators: media history, media ethics, communication  concepts, media law are priorities – Professionals: conceptual courses do little to prepare  students for newsroom practice – Professionals: skills more valuable • More dialog is needed b/t academy and the profession
  6. 6. Literature Review (cont.) • In the trend towards convergence – Industry undergoes revolutionary changes – Skills media professionals need to survive  and succeed shifted with evolution of  technologies • J‐schools moving in the same  direction? • Skills and concepts taught catching  up with (or leading) demands of  industry?
  7. 7. RQs and Hypothesis • RQ1: What skills are most needed  for online journalism? • RQ2: What duties are most  common in online journalism? • RQ3: What concepts are most  valued for online journalism? • H1: There are differences in the  perceptions of online journalism  instructors and online journalists  regarding skills, duties, and  concepts for online journalism.
  8. 8. Method • Sampling and procedures – “twin surveys,” nationwide • Instructors: ONA academic members – 101/180 = 56% • Journalists: multi‐stage procedure sample – 10% random sample of ABC listed daily newspapers (1,412 in  2009), stratified – Visit sampled dailies’ websites, identify online journalists:  “online” “interactive” “multimedia” “new media” “blogger” “producer” “developer” – Telephone to papers whose website does not list online  journalists – 49/151 = 32%
  9. 9. Method (cont.) • Variables and data collection – Questionnaires based on N.C. pilot study 2008 – 2009, Qualtrics online survey program – Variables, four parts • Perceptions of skills (18 questions)  • Common duties (24) • Journalism concepts (10) • Demographic/profile – Measures • 5‐point Likert scale • Rank ordering • Categorical – T‐tests for difference
  10. 10. Results Table 1 Profile of Respondents1 Instructors Journalists Gender  Male 56% 68% Female 44% 32% Age 30- 5% 29% (in year) 31-59 79% 71% 60+ 16% 0% Race White 89% 92% Black 4% 0% Other 7% 9% Education (12-) High School or less 0% 0% (in year) (13-15) Some College 3% 16% (16) 4-yr College Graduate 6% 68% (17+) Post-Graduate Work 91% 16% Professional 0 8% 0% Journalism 1-5 38% 33% Experience 6-9 21% 14% (in year)2 10+ 30% 55% Academic Instructor 18% Rank Assistant Prof. 28% Associate Prof. 19% N/A Prof. 14% Other 21% Job Title in Editor 54% Newsroom Reporter N/A 5% Producer 41% 1 Total of percentage not always equal to 100% due to rounding error; 2 For the instructor group, the questionnaire asked specifically for “online” journalism experience.
  11. 11. Results (cont.) Table 2 Most Needed Skills Instructors Mean Journalists Mean Skills N = 101 N = 49 1 Grammar and style 4.44 News Judgment 4.07 2 News Judgment 4.32 Grammar and style 4.02 Writing summary content for 4.14 My company’s content 4 3 the Web (blurbs, headlines, management system captions, labels) Web Usability 3.51 Writing summary content for 3.98 4 the Web (blurbs, headlines, captions, labels) Blogging tools (Wordpress, 3.51 Web Usability 3.93 5 etc.) Audio reporting and/or 3.4 Photoshop 3.44 6 editing Video reporting and/or 3.37 Blogging tools (Wordpress, 3.34 7 editing etc.) My company’s content 3.15 Web layout and/or user 3.2 8 management system interface design 9 Soundslides 3.09 HTML 3.2 Search engine optimization 2.94 Video reporting and/or 3.17 10 editing Survey question for instructors: “Please tell us the proficiency level you think your students should have for each of these skills if they work for online newsrooms” Survey Question for Journalists: “Please tell us the proficiency level you have for each of these skills.” 5-point forced choice scale: 1 = none, 2 = basic, 3 = intermediate, 4 = advance, 5 = expert
  12. 12. Results (cont.) Table 3 Most Performed Duties Instructors Mean Journalists Mean Duties N = 101 N = 49 Reporting and writing 2.32 Writing or editing scripts 3.33 1 original stories Story 4.45 Project management 4 2 combining/shortening 3 Writing or editing scripts 5.04 Blogging 4.3 4 Multimedia authoring 5.13 Photo shooting 4.33 5 Editing text for content 5.15 User interface design 4.33 6 Writing headlines or blurbs 5.21 Video production 4.35 Managing user-generated 5.43 Staff 4.61 7 content organization/administration Editing for grammar or 5.67 Story combining/shortening 4.71 8 style Photo/image editing 5.67 Reporting and writing 4.86 9 original stories 10 Project management 5.7 Photo/image editing 4.95 Survey question for instructors: “Select and rank the top 10 duties you think your students will perform the most often during the first year of their professional careers.” Survey Question for Journalists: “Select and rank the top 10 duties you spent your work time on.” 10-point forced choice scale: 1 = most important, 2 = second most important…
  13. 13. Results (cont.) Table 4 Most Valued Concepts Instructors Mean Journalists Mean Concepts N = 101 N = 49 1 News judgment 2.92 Multitasking 4.14 Ability to work under 4.55 Ability to learn new 4.49 2 time pressure technologies Team 4.7 Attention to detail 4.56 3 work/collaboration Interpersonal 4.85 Ability to work under time 4.83 4 communication pressure Ability to learn new 5.04 News judgment 5.15 5 technologies 6 Attention to detail 5.16 Team work/collaboration 5.15 7 Multitasking 5.49 Web usability 5.29 Awareness of new 5.92 Interpersonal communication 5.91 8 technologies Web usability 7.25 Awareness of new 6.61 9 technologies Online community 7.77 Online community 6.86 10 management management Survey question for instructors: “Rank the concepts in the order in which you think they are important to your students’ future job in online newsrooms.” Survey Question for Journalists: “Rank the concepts in the order in which they are important to your job.” 10-point forced choice scale: 1 = most important…10 = least important
  14. 14. Results (cont.) Table 5 Comparison of Skill Level Instructors Journalists Skills Mean Mean t p N = 101 N = 49 News Judgment 4.32 4.07 1.47 0.14 Web Usability 3.51 3.93 -2.31 0.02* Dreamweaver 2.27 2.37 -0.48 0.63 Information graphics design 2.66 2.61 0.24 0.82 Web layout and/or user interface 2.82 3.20 -1.80 0.08 design Flash 2.30 1.85 2.94 <0.01** SQL 1.76 1.71 0.28 0.78 Search engine optimization 2.94 2.95 -0.08 0.94 Blogging tools (Wordpress, etc.) 3.51 3.34 0.842 0.40 Computer programming skills (e.g. 1.83 1.90 -0.43 0.67 PHP, JavaScript, Python, ASP, Ajax) Grammar and style 4.44 4.02 2.95 <0.01** Writing summary content for the 4.14 3.98 1.00 0.32 Web (blurbs, headlines, captions, labels) Audio reporting and/or editing 3.40 2.80 3.25 <0.01** Video reporting and/or editing 3.37 3.17 1.17 0.25 HTML 2.66 3.20 -2.88 0.01** Photoshop 2.91 3.44 -2.85 0.01** Soundslides 3.09 2.65 1.86 0.07 My company’s content management 3.15 4.00 -4.14 <0.01** system
  15. 15. Results (cont.) Table 6 Comparison of Duties Instructors Journalists Duties Mean Mean t p N = 101 N = 49 Reporting and writing original stories 2.32 4.86 -1.67 0.14 Multimedia authoring 5.13 6.14 -1.17 0.25 Staff organization/administration 9.00 4.61 5.78 <0.01** Project management 5.70 4.00 1.99 0.05 Working on business issues 8.14 5.88 1.91 0.07 Analyzing site usage metrics 7.53 6.55 1.09 0.28 Database design/administration 7.00 5.15 1.44 0.17 Blogging 5.74 4.30 1.67 0.10 Email newsletter production 6.82 6.33 0.45 0.66 Writing or editing scripts 5.04 3.33 1.19 0.24 Editing text for content 5.15 5.32 -0.24 0.81 Managing user-generated content 5.43 5.78 -0.44 0.66 Editing for grammar or style 5.67 5.27 0.49 0.63 Writing headlines or blurbs 5.21 5.22 -0.01 0.99 Developing and managing 7.67 5.50 1.71 0.10 relationships with third-party content providers Training or teaching other staff 6.75 6.32 0.50 0.62 members in new skills or concepts Story combining/shortening 4.45 4.71 -0.22 0.83 Photo/image editing 5.67 4.95 1.06 0.29 Photo shooting 5.91 4.33 1.00 0.32 Audio production 6.02 6.71 -0.82 0.42 Video production 5.74 4.35 2.18 0.03* Information/graphic design 7.50 5.29 2.60 0.02* User interface design 7.57 4.33 2.57 0.02* Other duties 7.70 5.43 1.92 0.07
  16. 16. Results (cont.) Table 7 Comparison of Concepts Instructors Journalists Concepts Mean Mean t p N = 101 N = 49 Attention to detail 5.16 4.56 1.42 0.26 Online community management 7.77 6.86 1.52 0.14 Ability to work under time 4.55 4.83 -0.55 0.58 pressure Interpersonal communication 4.85 5.91 -2.08 0.04* Multitasking 5.49 4.14 2.37 0.02* Team work/collaboration 4.70 5.15 -0.90 0.37 Ability to learn new technologies 5.04 4.49 1.07 0.29 Awareness of new technologies 5.92 6.61 -1.22 0.23 News judgment 2.92 5.15 -3.45 <0.01** Web usability 7.25 5.29 3.57 <0.01**
  17. 17. Conclusions • Offers updated insights into the much‐ debated gap b/w j‐education/practice • First quantitative, empirical  exploration • Finds sig. differences in online context • Traditional backbone skills remain  important • Methodological strength – Solid, rich data – Representative, meaning results (Internet survey response rate 1%‐30%,  Wimmer & Dominick, 2005)
  18. 18. Thank you! Questions? Comments?

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