There are, today, jobs for journalists with engagement in their title. This is not a future thing professors should consider, but rather a present need.
Descriptions for these jobs mention using web and social media analytics to gain insights about audiences in order to serve those audiences and to demonstrate reach to advertisers.
There are multiple pressures on news organizations and their employees. Advertisers expect proof of effectiveness. Continually evolving search engine algorithms require strategy to create news that will surface. Social media audiences demand attention.
This means our journalism grads need more skills. They must
- Tell accurate stories quickly and ethically
- Across multiple media
- In a way friendly to both humans and robots
- While continually using insights from audience data to optimize.
That’s a big deal, but there’s one bright spot. I’ve been telling my students for a while now that professional journalists have but two unique selling propositions now: The ethical standards of the field and the ability to find and interpret primary sources.
Those primary sources increasingly involve understanding, manipulating and using data to see what is really going on. The skills to do that are quite similar to the skills to find and use audience insights.
So teaching data skills won’t just make students more employable, it will make them better storytellers, as they can understand information first-hand. And as much as some of our students are math and code phobic, they CAN learn this.