It’s time to pay attention to the skills required to work in a modern newsroom. The old hiring protocols are outdated (writes Mario García).
It happens often: one of my Columbia students applies for a job for which he/she is uniquely qualified after receiving a Masters of Journalism from Columbia University, and taking my class Multiplatform Design & Storytelling, where the emphasis is on conceptualising stories thinking from small to large platform.
However, the job description requires a certain number of years of experience, sometimes three, and often five.
I am just going through another such episode. My student, who excelled in class as a mobile visual storyteller, is applying for a job to do just that. However, the newsroom where he is applying requires five years of experience before they even look at his application.
Yet, I work with this newsroom and know its team intimately. Indeed, most of the team members I work with there have ten, 15 even 25 years of experience. However, many of those years have been spent in a room with the words PRINT written in large type over the door.
The addition of young journalists who don’t remember life without Google, who are themselves the products of the digital era, is exactly what these newsrooms can benefit from. It is not happening, because the hiring protocols were set decades ago.
I urge newsroom administrators to rethink these prerequisites and start hiring young talent who understand mobile storytelling and can bring that knowledge to their colleagues.
Here come the young mentors
Along the same lines, for two years now I have been encouraging editors in newsrooms where I conduct workshops to consider reverting the role of mentor and mentee.
Traditionally, a mentor is an older, experienced person providing guiding to a protegé or mentee. We all have benefitted from mentors during our career journey.
Today, however, I see value in reversing the roles. That new hire who just completed her degree may be a valuable mentor to her editor. With mutual respect, and an understanding that the collaboration can be mutually beneficial, this can work well.
As I bid goodbye to my Columbia students last Monday, to set them off into the real working world after graduation, I strongly encouraged them to suggest that they can be mentors to their bosses, particularly in the areas of mobile storytelling and design, which are relevantly new.
While I do not claim to have any expertise in the areas of human resources and management, I am an observer of what goes on in newsrooms almost every week of my life. I believe that hiring protocols are as outdated as the old fax machine. Newsrooms everywhere can benefit from what young graduates can bring to the table. Before that can happen, newsroom administrators need to revise hiring protocols, accepting that sometimes up to date knowledge and training in digital and mobile journalism may serve a more practical purpose than years of experience in a resumé.