Report: Many Newspaper Journos Want a Faster Transition to Digital

By: Mark Fitzgerald Far from resisting the transition to digital news delivery, nearly half of all print newspaper journalists think their newsrooms are moving too slowly, a report from Northwestern University's Media Management Center (MMC) finds.

And while their publishers and sales directors may worry about how to replace dollars from print advertising with the so-called digital dimes of online ads, newspaper journalists "have no trouble envisioning a career where news is delivered primarily online and to mobile devices instead of in print," according to the study "Life Beyond Print: Newspaper Journalists' Digital Appetite."

Study authors Vickey Williams, Stacy Lynch and Bob LeBailly surveyed almost 3,800 journalists in print, online, or hybrid jobs at 79 U.S. newspapers, asking their attitude towards shifting from print-only to multimedia.

Most are still working in print, the study found -- but most don't want to continue doing so forever. In fact, when segmenting newspaper journalists into six types according to their eagerness to transition to digital, the study characterized just 6% of journalists as "Turn Back the Clocks," who wish the digital era would just go away.

"For several years we have heard that it is the journalists' resistance to change that was holding newspapers back," said MMC executive director Michael P. Smith. "What this study shows is that they are ready -- and some are even impatient -- for change."

Fully half of newsroom staffers fall into the category the study calls "Moderately More," journalists who would prefer to work as much in digital as they do in print. Another 12%, dubbed the "Digitals," are already doing most of their work in the digital space, and wish their paper were transitioning quicker from print.

The study also found that the eager and reluctant are not easily distinguished by age, experience, or years away from retirement. "The top two drivers of digital appetite are heavy use of the Internet outside of work and having knowledge of online audiences and their preferences," the study finds.

Despite the mass layoffs and employment uncertainty that the industry recession has visited upon newsrooms, the study finds journalists surprisingly upbeat.

More than three-quarters, 77%, say they are somewhat or very satisfied with their current jobs, and 67% think it somewhat or very likely they will be in the news business two years from now. Most, 59%, even think they'll be working for their present newspaper.

Check out the full report, here.


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