Final Report: SF Bay Area Journalist Census

Click the link below to download the full copy (pdf) of the San Francisco Bay Area Journalist Census study:

Final Report: SF Bay Area Journalist Census Study (corrected – 5-27-11) (pdf)


Here is an excerpt from the report:


This chapter outlines a recommended Action Plan for NOVA based on the research completed for this project. For discussion purposes, we have called the recommended program the “Journalist Repositioning Initiative” (JRI). Whereas the initiative would focus on serving journalists who are currently unemployed or underemployed due to a dislocation, many of the recommended programs would also be relevant to employed journalists who, in the absence of proactive career planning, would be vulnerable to future dislocation.


A.            JRI Goal and Objectives

The recommended overarching goal of the JRI is:

To maximize use – both in journalism organizations and in other compatible fields – of the vast amount of  human capital represented by professional journalists, thereby enhancing individual career opportunities while facilitating constructive changes in the rapidly evolving media industry.

In support of this goal, the consultant team recommends eight major objectives:

  1. 1. Position NOVA as the focal point of all Bay Area workforce development activities related to journalist dislocations.
  2. Maximize awareness of and access to existing training programs (including community college and university offerings) relevant to journalists, and pursue strategic partnerships to strengthen the impact of these programs.
  3. Implement targeted in-house programs/services for dislocated journalists and for employed journalists who potentially face dislocation.
  4. Function as an information clearinghouse to support related efforts of other workforce development organizations in the region.
  5. Serve as a national model for workforce development programs addressing the ongoing transformation of the journalism industry and other industries undergoing rapid change.
  6. Initiate and maintain connections with media-related industries to proactively monitor their evolving workforce needs and to maximize awareness of opportunities for journalist transitions into related fields.
  7. Locate more media workers, particularly those who are no longer employed.
  8. Engage employers from both traditional and new media sectors

Given that NOVA is a workforce development organization, the recommended objectives relate primarily to activities that will directly serve journalists who are seeking employment. However, it is clear that the future opportunities available to media workers will be directly tied to the direction of the media industry – a course that is not entirely predictable at this time. In this regard, Objective 6 could potentially be more broadly construed to include a role in advocating industry initiatives and practices that serve both to enhance journalist career opportunities and to strengthen the quality of journalism that emerges from new business models. This expanded role is not detailed in the Action Plan but is mentioned here for the consideration of NOVA decision makers.


B.            Recommended Actions

The Action Plan is organized in terms of three groups of recommended actions:

  1. Near-term preparatory steps;
  2. Organizational capacity building; and
  3. Program development and implementation.


Near-term Preparatory Steps

The near-term preparatory steps include basic reconnaissance and some focused follow-up research needed to fully define and prioritize the recommended programs.  Three specific actions are recommended:

A. Initial Working Group. Establish an initial Working Group to guide the planning of the JRI. This group would potentially include:

  • NOVA staff and Board representatives;
  • Union/guild representatives (i.e., Pacific Media Workers Guild, Communications Workers of America, etc.);
  • Representatives of Bay Area Media Training Consortium (BAMTC);
  • Representatives of the BAMTC industry skill panel (or comparable representation if this panel is not functional yet).
  • Media industry employer representatives

B. Existing program inventory and assessment. Develop a comprehensive inventory of relevant training programs available throughout the region, and complete an initial assessment of the adequacy/responsiveness of these programs in terms of the following variables:

  • Specific skills addressed;
  • Enrollment capacity and utilization levels;
  • Degree to which eligible trainees are aware of available programs;
  • Program schedules and timeframes (i.e., when are the programs offered and how long do they take to complete?);
  • Program cost (to trainee);
  • Anticipated expansions or reductions in program offerings.

C. Develop project database(s). Determine optimal uses of detailed survey data collected during this study and format in-house databases according to the intended uses.

D. Assess outreach efforts. In conjunction with initial Working Group, review the outreach efforts used to engage journalists and media employers in the current study, and determine the preferred mechanisms for future engagement of these constituencies (particularly dislocated workers).

E. Expand outreach to media employers. In order to ensure that media employers are fully engaged in NOVA’s programs related to journalist workforce development, NOVA should immediately begin a specific outreach effort focused on major media firms in the Bay Area.


Organizational Capacity Building

The following recommendations address the need for NOVA to develop a specific organizational capacity to implement and sustain the JRI programs. This capacity should involve appropriate interface with existing NOVA initiatives, as well as opportunities to leverage NOVA’s resources through external partnerships. Six major actions are recommended:

A. Clearinghouse role. Position NOVA as a regional clearinghouse of information about training and other resources available to assist dislocated journalists. The intent of this strategy is to maximize the utilization and impact of existing resources, thereby allowing NOVA to focus its own resources on developing programs that are not already adequately addressed by other organizations. As part of the organizational capacity building phase of the JRI, it is recommended that NOVA assign a dedicated staff member to organizing the clearinghouse function.

B. Strategic partnerships. Consistent with the clearinghouse concept, whereby NOVA will leverage its own resources through linkages to external programs, NOVA should establish strategic partnerships with employers and key training organizations (including community colleges and universities). In addition to providing a mechanism to promote better utilization of existing programs, the partnerships should also focus on establishing new collaborative programs responsive to unmet needs.

C. Permanent outreach. Building on the successful outreach effort of the current study, NOVA should establish an ongoing outreach program to engage the journalism community in the JRI.

D. Interface with NOVA initiatives for other relevant industries. The current study clearly documents the need for most dislocated journalists to transition to other occupations and industries. To facilitate these transitions, NOVA should take advantage of its direct interface with industries that are appropriate destinations for former journalists. For example, several of the key informants contacted during the course of this study noted that journalists are often ideally suited for “new economy” or “information-based” industries. NOVA’s recent focus on information technology (IT) activities in the Silicon Valley would therefore appear to highly relevant as a complementary initiative. The potential for linkages to the IT study and other NOVA initiatives should be explored as part of the capacity-building phase of the JRI.

E. Advisory Committee. Utilizing the initial Working Group (described above) as a nucleus, NOVA should establish a permanent Advisory Committee for the JRI. In addition to types of representatives listed for the Working Group, the Advisory Committee should include representatives from the “strategic partner” organizations (per Item 2 above), as well as direct representation from key employers (both media firms and firms/industries representing journalist transition opportunities). Given the tremendous turmoil that traditional media firms (especially newspapers) have experienced in recent years, it should be recognized that there may be resistance to participating in an advisory group (if for no other reason, due to the perceived time commitment). Meaningful engagement of industry representatives should therefore be a specific focus of the outreach program (under Item 3 above).

F. Monitoring program. Consistent with NOVA’s practices for monitoring the progress of existing initiatives, it is recommended that NOVA develop specific guidelines for measuring the impact of JRI and providing periodic reports on program accomplishments.


Programmatic Recommendations

The chart at the end of this chapter outlines a “continuum of services” oriented to the unique needs of journalists. These recommended services represent the core programmatic response to issues identified by the study.  The recommended programs are grouped under the following major headings:

1. Basic Outplacement / Needs Assessment Services. In addition to the normal stress associated with being unemployed, dislocated journalists face unique pressures due to the severe disruptions affecting media industry business models. As a result of the extreme uncertainty concerning the future viability of their careers (which they often consider “callings”), emotional depression and disillusionment are reportedly common among those who have lost jobs. The challenges facing dislocated journalists are compounded by the fact that the outplacement support and severance packages offered by their former employers were typically limited in scope. Based on these factors, the JRI should address the unique emotional toll of dislocation in addition to providing standard outplacement and needs assessment services.

2. Career “Visioning” Support. Given the challenging job market for journalism jobs and the additional emotional factors described above, many dislocated journalists feel a sense of desperation. But many have yet to develop a corresponding realization of the need to make dramatic changes in order to resurrect their careers. Whereas there is virtually unanimous awareness of the need for journalists to enhance specific technical skills in order to remain employable as journalists, there appears to be less awareness of the likely need for many former journalists to “move on” to new careers. Success stories documented during this process point to the need for journalists to systematically consider their career aspirations in light of the dramatically altered set of opportunities that now exists. To this end, the PRI should specifically include a “life coaching” component that facilitates career “visioning” as the basis for an individual’s subsequent course of action. This process can encourage individuals not only to improve their own career/learning prospects but to view themselves as part of the solution to the larger challenge of defining viable business models for delivering quality journalism to the public.

3. Customized Skills Training. Reflecting the strategic partnerships referenced under the organizational recommendations, TNDG recommends that NOVA focus in-house training programs on specific gaps identified in the course offerings of other entities in the region. The training modules should be offered in a “menu” format whereby individuals can customize an overall training package that meets their particular needs. The study process identified a range of new skills that journalists need to have in order to remain competitive in the job market. These skills are relevant both to individuals hoping to remain in journalism and to those seeking to transition to other communications related occupations. The “supplemental” skills can be generally grouped in three categories:

  • Technical skills, including working familiarity with social media and competency in various digital/multimedia platforms;
  • Managerial skills, including budgeting, financial management and organizational leadership;
  • Entrepreneurial skills, including marketing and innovation of new business models.

4. Job Preparedness and Job Search Assistance. The JRI should also include assistance with basic job preparedness (including career strategy development and resume writing) and support on the job search process.

5. Community Building and Networking Support. This research process and the parallel outreach efforts of SF Public Press provide an excellent foundation or “infrastructure” for ongoing engagement of the journalism community and the broader community. This foundation should be fully leveraged as part of the JRI.