4 Skills Future Journalists Need, According to Journalists

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Cision’s 14th annual State of the Media Report, released last week, asked more than 3,000 journalists about their biggest challenges, how they see the industry evolving amid technological and societal shifts (hello, AI), and what it means for the PR and comms professionals who seek to partner with them.

At a time when generative AI is posing a potential threat to journalists’ jobs (and putting a dent in readers’ trust) and layoffs across the industry continue to make the headlines, we wanted to know how journalists feel about the future of the industry – and what they believe it will take to be successful.

What we learned is that journalists continue to face challenges with the public’s trust in media and are consistently being asked to do more with fewer resources. Twenty-seven percent of journalists told Cision that maintaining credibility as a trusted news source was journalism’s largest challenge in 2022, followed by a lack of staffing/resources (20%) and declining ad/circulation revenues (20%).

The skills needed for the future generation of journalists will work to address some of these major hurdles.

1. Focus on Accuracy and Truth

Cision 2023 State of the Media - Biggest challenges for journalists

Source: PRNewsfoto/Cision Ltd.

As we mentioned above, maintaining credibility was listed as the #1 challenge facing journalism in 2022. Recent “striking” data from Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that half of Americans believe national news organizations intentionally mislead them. So, it follows that many journalists believe the next generation of journalists needs to be committed to accuracy in reporting.

Just last week, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger wrote for Columbia Journalism Review about the importance of journalistic independence. “It insists on sharing what we learn—fully and fairly—regardless of whom it may upset or what the political consequences might be. Independence calls for plainly stating the facts, even if they appear to favor one side of a dispute,” Sulzberger said.

State of the Media respondents echoed that sentiment when they shared a few of the traits they believe upcoming journalists should have, including:

“…focused on truth, accuracy, seeking fairness and balance and on promoting understanding of issues.”

“…dedicated to truth and wary of misinformation.”

In this time of hyperpolarization, journalists also spoke on the importance of avoiding bias in their writing. As one respondent put it, future journalists should be “…aware of people’s biases and subjective thinking, in order to be able to deliver objective news, information and analysis, while applying critical thinking on the different sides of pitched content and views.” 

2. Adapt to Technology – While Staying Human

When asked what skills future journalists will need for success, many respondents focused on the evolving technology of the industry – whether it’s AI, social media, or data journalism – and the importance of adjusting to and working with it.

Here are just a few of the responses we received when journalists were prompted to complete the sentence “The next generation of journalists need to be…”:

“…Innovations like ChatGPT won’t stop, but the journalists who hide from them are at a disadvantage.”

“…focused on finding original data and original perspectives. As AI does more of the actual writing, the journalists who succeed will be the ones who can do the human kinds of things like telling personal stories and finding original conclusions in data sets and data trends well.”

“… Able to use Generative AI to enhance their work and remain relevant.”

As the use of AI in the newsroom continues to evolve, it must remain front of mind for aspiring journalists. “The news industry must be actively engaged in the AI revolution,” Francesco Marconi, a computational journalist and co-founder AppliedXL, told the Reuters Institute. “In fact, media companies have an opportunity to become a major player in the space – they possess some of the most valuable assets for AI development: text data for training models and ethical principles for creating reliable and trustworthy systems.”

3. Know How to Read and Present Data

The pandemic presented new challenges and tools for data journalists as they sought to break down complicated data sets into digestible, understandable reports for their readers. Not only is the ability to analyze, interpret, and translate data an increasingly in-demand skill by employers, but it also leads to higher salaries.

The State of the Media Report found that 43% of journalists have used data visualization in their work in the last year. Interestingly, we also found that 34% of journalists included web polls or surveys in their content this past year – more than twice the number who said the same the year before (16%).

Get started:

  • Looking for a tool to help you with data visualization? Find some options here.
  • Learning to code can help you break down the data to find the big takeaways and create visualizations to help your readers understand it. Read our blog post to learn about the importance of coding for journalists and how to get started.

4. Boost your LinkedIn and TikTok Usage

Cision 2023 State of the Media - Journalists’ activity on social media

Source: PRNewsfoto/Cision Ltd.

According to the survey, the vast majority of journalists (96%) use social media for work-related reasons. This year, journalists told us that LinkedIn is the social media platform on which they plan to increase their usage the most. On the flip side, Twitter is the platform journalists plan to decrease usage the most – a not entirely shocking finding given recent tension between journalists and Twitter owner Elon Musk.

TikTok appears to be a bit of a toss-up for journalists. Ten percent of State of the Media respondents said they plan on using the platform more this year, while 7% say they plan on using it less often. TikTok is the place where 10% of U.S. adults find their news, according to 2022 data from Pew Research. Ten percent may not seem like a large portion, but it’s three times more than what was reported in 2020 – signaling a growing audience for news content on the platform. But threats of a national ban – and one already passed in Montana – make the future of the popular app unclear.

For up-and-coming journalists, being able to effectively promote their content, find stories, or even connect with sources on these social platforms will be vital. In the end, given the volatility among social media platforms – like the proposed national TikTok ban and chaos at Twitter – it’s important to stay tuned in to how your key audiences are using social media, and where they are the most active and engaged.

More From the Report

This is just a small amount of the information journalists shared with Cision for the State of the Media Report. Read the full report to find out what journalists said about:

  • What they need, want, and rely on from PR and communications pros.
  • How they’re using multimedia in their content.
  • The percentage of pitches received that journalists find relevant to their coverage area.
  • And much more!

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Rocky Parker is the Manager of Audience and Journalist Engagement at Cision PR Newswire. She's been with the company since 2010 and has worked with journalists and bloggers as well as PR and comms professionals. Outside of work, she can be found trying a new recipe, binging a new show, or cuddling with her pitbull, Hudson.

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