Nontraditional Online News Media Seek Employees with Adaptive Expertise

[January 28, 2010]

Nontraditional online news sources are more likely to hire people with broad bodies of knowledge (“adaptive expertise”) while traditional news organizations more commonly seek out those with solid technical skills, according to a recent study published in Journalism & Mass Communication Educator.

Dr. Serena Carpenter, an assistant professor in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, examined over a six-month period 664 online media job postings on JournalismJobs.com to gauge whether online news media employers prefer employees with specific skill sets or with knowledge spanning several topics.

Traditional news media were still most interested in hiring new employees with “nontechnical routine expertise,” such as solid writing skills, working under deadline, editing, teamwork and communication skills, and Associated Press Style. About equally, however, they also were seeking employees with “technical routine expertise,” such as content posting and management, image editing, blogging, video editing, and social media knowledge.

Nontraditional online news media were as interested in nontechnical routine expertise as traditional news media, but less interested in routine technical expertise (perhaps because they assumed new employees already had such skills or that they could be easily taught). Instead, nontraditional online news media were significantly more interested in hiring employees with adaptive expertise, such as knowledge outside journalism/mass communication, creativity, independent and critical thinking, leadership, and problem-solving abilities.

Regardless of their preferences, the job postings for traditional and nontraditional online news sources expressed interest in employees with some expertise in both areas, suggesting that teaching specific and broad knowledge areas should each have a place in the journalism and mass communication curriculum.

The study appears in the Autumn 2009 issue of Journalism & Mass Communication Educator.

CONTACT: Serena Carpenter, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Serena.Carpenter@asu.edu.

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