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No. 1 complaint of U.S. journalists is lack of training, new national survey says

Courtesy of the Knight Foundation |

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. journalists say a lack of training is their No. 1 source of job dissatisfaction, ahead of pay and benefits, a comprehensive national survey reveals.

What's more, the news executives they work for admit they should provide more training for their employees, but say time and insufficient budget are the main reasons they don't.

Nearly 2,000 journalists and news executives from all news media participated in the survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates for the Council of Presidents of National Journalism Organizations and funded by the John S. and James. L. Knight Foundation.

The findings - "Newsroom Training: Where's the Investment?" - were released today at the start of the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention here. They point to a gap in perception on training; while most bosses give their news organizations A or B grades when it to comes to training, half of their staffers give them grades of C, D or F.

"As our industry has taken economic hits in recent years, we have been concerned about the repercussions on working journalists," said Ted Gest, president of the Criminal Justice Journalists organization and chair of the Council of Presidents. "Training and travel budgets often have taken a back seat as news organizations understandably give priority to covering breaking news. This report demonstrates the need for more sustained attention to the challenges of training journalists."

The survey covered three basic areas of training: journalistic skills, beat reporting and ethics/legal issues. Among the highlights:

  • A third of the journalists surveyed are dissatisfied with opportunities for training and professional development, a larger percentage than are dissatisfied with salary or promotion opportunities.
  • News executives acknowledge that news staff members need more training than their organizations now provide. Nine of 10 staff members say training is important, but nearly half say they don't get training at all.
  • Eight in 10 news executives cite insufficient budget as the major obstacle to their delivering the kind of staff training they would like. Sixty three percent of the news executives say they spend an average of $500 or less per year per staff member, and 10 percent spend nothing.
  • It's not just money but time as well. Two of three news executives say the amount of time they can allow staffers to be away from the job limits training. On average, they can allow a typical news staff member to be away from the job for training no more than four or five days per year.
  • Demand exceeds supply. The gap is widest for beat coverage areas, where 51 percent think it is very important to have training, but only 14 percent say it is being provided.

The good news is that midcareer journalism training does appear to be growing," said Eric Newton, Knight Foundation's director of Journalism Initiatives. "But the bad news is that it's still fragile, like a sapling, really, when what journalists want is a real, full-grown tree."

"Professional development hits so many right spots, it's amazing there's not more of it," said Caesar Andrews, editor of Gannett News Service and president of the Associated Press Managing Editors. "Employees know it's an investment in their future. It's care and feeding of their talent. It's one sign of commitment to quality. The survey seems to be saying that absence of training communicates the opposite."

The survey's consulting editor Beverly Kees found that the news industry also lags others. The 367 non-journalism companies tracked by the American Society for Training and Development estimated a 10 percent increase in spending for training even during the difficult economic times of 2001.

"Though news organizations are in the knowledge business, the news industry lags behind others in providing its people with new knowledge and skills through professional training," she said.

"This study stands apart; it is the most exhaustive research study ever conducted about journalists' training and professional development," said Larry Hugick, vice president of Princeton Survey and Research, and its director of Media and Political Surveys. "What's more, it is one of the largest and most comprehensive national surveys of journalists ever conducted on any subject."

Complete survey results can be found on line at

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.

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