Young Medium, Young Journalists p.20

By: B.G. YOVOVICH THE RISING importance of two very different kinds of interactive skills ? technical and personal ? points toward major shifts in newspaper hiring and recruitment.
The explosive growth in the number and size of interactive projects by newspapers and by all sorts of other new entrants to World Wide Web publishing have opened up opportunities for Web-savvy journalists ? and particularly for recent journalism school graduates who are adept at new media and who are being hired in surprising numbers.
"One of the most obvious changes for us is that our hiring has been skewing much younger," says Tim J. McGuire, editor and senior vice president of new media at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In the past, typical new hires were 27 or 28 years old minimum, but mostly in their mid-30s, people with six to 10 years of newspaper experience, because the paper is a metropolitan daily, "a destination paper," he said.
Hiring a 22-year-old had been very unusual for us ? unheard of ? and now we are doing it somewhat frequently because these kids know what it is all about," McGuire said, referring to interactive technology. "It is second nature to them. The result is that we are looking a lot younger than we used to and that is a big change."
Or take the situation at the Columbia School of Journalism, where professor Steve Ross reports his 20 new-media students have attracted "something like 80 job offers." Ross headed the school's new-media program last year.
And yet, demand for people adept in very different skills ? a kind of "high-touch" counterpart to the high-tech skills generally associated with interactive media ? may actually portend deeper and more profound changes for the journalism community.
"We are putting more emphasis on interpersonal and teamwork skills," says Mary Kay Blake, director of recruitment/placement for Gannett Co.'s newspaper division.
"More and more will be accomplished not by a single person driving something, but by working interdepartmentally within the newsroom and in the newspaper," she says. "It already is true at newspapers today, and the new-media ventures may require much more synergy in terms of developing products."
Consider, for example, the thinking at Tribune Interactive, which coordinates new-media activities of Tribune Co.'s newspapers and TV stations.
"I look for people who can work in collegial settings ? it is not an occupation for a loner ? and an ability to work in teams is very, very high on our list," says Mike Silver, general manager of Tribune Interactive.
"I was a newspaper reporter in the late 1970s, and my recollection is that, sure, you would have to work with a photographer on occasion, and sometimes two reporters would be assigned to a story. But, today, the level of collegiality and back and forth between newspeople, designers and technical people is extraordinarily high. The ability to work in groups has become a crucial factor in the kinds of organizations we run here."
As part of the emphasis on interpersonal skills for interactive media, Tribune makes sure that prospective employees are interviewed "by a lot of people, and we look for things in college or in previous jobs that indicate that they have worked in an organization or as part of a group," Silver says.
For example, last year, the Tribune Interactive hired somebody fresh out of college who was "very light in terms of traditional journalism experience and was not from a high-profile journalism school," Silver recalls.
"But he had worked part time on some Web e-zines, and, in addition to being smart and literate and Web-savvy, there was stuff in his background that indicated that he was involved in lots of group activities at college," from musical productions to charitable activities.
As it turned out, the new hire's lack of editorial experience required extra work, Silver says, "but he turned out to be extremely good and has now been promoted to be Webmaster at one of our television stations."
Executives predict more of the same: rising demand for the kind of journalists who combined both types of interactive skills, personal and technological.
As McGuire of the Star Tribune says, "Finding new-media leaders is going to be a big challenge."
?("The ability to work in groups has become a crucial factor in the kinds of organizations we run here.") [Caption]
?(-Mike Silver, Tribune Interactive) [Photo & Caption]
?(Yovovich is a freelance writer based in Evanston, Ill.) [Caption]
# Editor & Publisher n February 22, 1997


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