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Rutgers and Columbia Study Analyzes the Increase in Technical-Skill-Based Jobs in the NYC Media Industry
utgers and Columbia Study Analyzes the Increase in Technical-Skill-Based Jobs in the NYC Media Industry

In a report from Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, titled “Study: Data and Platform-Based Jobs Grow Substantially in NYC Newsrooms,” which appeared in the March 22, 2018 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, SC&I’s Associate Professor of Communication  Matthew Weber, and Allie Kosterich Ph.D. ’17, explore how the media industry’s demand for newsroom employees with technical skills has increased since 2010, and the implications of this trend.

Weber and Kosterich (who is currently on the faculty at Pace University), conducted this research while they were Fellows at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. After three years of work, their findings show that while current and emerging data, analytic and platform-based jobs (“DAP” jobs, as Weber and Kosterich refer to them) have grown significantly in newspaper and online media companies in New York City, conversely, the number of traditional, non-data, analytic and platform-based jobs has decreased.

Their study, as they explain in the paper, focused on “newsworkers such as programmers, coders, data specialists, and those dedicated solely to producing content for social and mobile platforms, as opposed to traditional newsworkers.”

The reason for this hiring trend, as they wrote, is because the “Digital, technological evolution has had an ongoing disruptive effect on the news media industry, resulting in a configuring of production, consumption, and distribution of news. In light of this transformation, the established professional practices of newsroom workers were destabilized and necessitated a shift toward adoption and integration of new newsroom jobs based on new skills and competencies.

To gather data for the study, Weber and Kosterich focused on a random sample of news media companies in New York City. Using the CisionPoint database, they analyzed 16 of these companies in order to understand employment patterns in the media industry. The companies were ABC News, TheBlaze (which recently moved, so this was the only company not headquartered in New York City), Buzzfeed, CBS News, The Daily Beast, Fox News, Huffington Post, Mic, MSNBC, NBC News, New York Daily News, The New York Times, NowTHis News, Patch Media, Slate and The Wall Street Journal

To acquire data on job skills, they studied publicly available data , focusing on employment trends, not specific individuals. They also sought to determine how newsroom employees move from job to job within the New York city news industry, and where these employees are being trained for DAP jobs.

“Our analysis, paired with prior work, suggests that when strategizing hiring practices, diversifying employee pools and skill sets, and adapting to new modes of news production, newsrooms should think more broadly around talent investment,” Weber and Kosterich wrote in the paper.

They also suggest that based on their findings, the media industry should demonstrate a “renewed investment in training journalists to develop technical skills. . . and training shouldn’t necessarily come from within; sparking innovation requires new ideas from afield.”

Much of their research was motivated by their understanding that, “In addition to storytelling skills, modern news workers are called upon to be literate in navigating complex datasets, understanding metrics and audience behavior, and even the basics of coding. . . The DAP category thus reflects the rise of big data, editorial metrics, mobile product development, and social media.”

Their findings indicate that the industry’s growing need for newsroom employees with technical skills reflects how the media industry is transforming radically. Further, the fundamental transformation of the roles and responsibilities of journalists and other newsroom employees will now motivate more of them to acquire digital media skills. Given the indications that the increase in DAP jobs in this industry will continue, this has significant implications for hiring and training.

Their research was funded by Columbia University, through a Knight Foundation grant, with additional financial support from SC&I. Four undergraduates, Priya Ashish, Akshar Patel, Samantha Nitting and Abhisek Vyas, served as research assistants working on data collection.

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