Doctorate in Journalism
Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts
Iyer, Padmanabhan, Competencies for future newsrooms in Australia: a mid-career learning strategy for journalists, Doctorate in Journalism thesis, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong, 2015. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4521
This study addresses a practical need in Australian print newsrooms, which are being transformed from single platform to multi-platform news delivery centres. Convergence, or the co-existence of many technological platforms – such as print, online, mobile and tablet news publishing – in the same newsroom or publication environment, necessitates the development of newsroom capabilities at the individual and team levels. The concept of competency – which encompasses attributes, knowledge areas and skills – is useful in assessing the requirements for performance under changing circumstances.
This study notes the use of a competency-based framework for monitoring and developing performance in other professions, such as information technology, psychology, health services and teaching. Research indicates a gap in literature on the use of such a framework in the newsroom. This researcher’s newsroom experience also indicates the desirability of using a competency framework in the newsroom environment or community of practice.
Newsrooms need to keep track of the competencies of their journalists to adapt to new technological developments affecting their performance requirements. This can be done by developing a competency framework, adapted from a generic framework, such as the one presented in this study of newsroom competencies. The study reveals the attributes, knowledge areas and skills that newsroom journalists at different functional levels require. It takes into account the tacit and explicit knowledge areas as well as the skills and attributes acquired in the newsroom, a community of practice where journalists perform news-related tasks, learn from each other and mentor or teach others during work.
This study uses three methods – content analysis of job advertisements, survey of newsroom practitioners and in-depth interviews with subject matter experts – to collect data relevant to a competencies framework for the Australian print newsroom that is rapidly becoming a convergent newsroom. The study aims to achieve both breadth and depth of discussion on newsroom competencies through the use of multiple methods.
The main findings of this study include the key role played by the community of practice for mid-career journalists in the development of their competencies. Implicit learning and tacit knowledge, two concepts explained in Chapter 3 on the theoretical framework underpinning this study, play a significant role in the “education” of journalists in the newsroom. A distinction is made between learning by doing and learning in the classroom through explicit and documented forms of knowledge provided through educational institutions such as training centres and universities. The competency matrix, developed in a preliminary stage through a content analysis of job advertisements (discussed in Chapter 6), is a combination of these two different kinds of learning. Competency categories and competency dimensions emerge as the major findings at this stage and these are used in the construction of a competency model. The inputs from newsroom practitioners, obtained through a survey questionnaire on competencies are used to refine the competency model in Chapter 7. This chapter also outlines the many practical applications and uses of the model. In-depth interviews with subject matter experts further confirm the findings of the content analysis and the survey. The specific competency components at the various career stages of newsroom journalists are presented in a composite model at the end of Chapter 8.
This thesis concludes that newsrooms can benefit from a competencies framework because it can be adapted to various circumstances and needs, whether applied to individual journalists or entire newsrooms. If updated on a regular basis, a competency framework provides a compass for developing the newsroom’s performance into the future.