APSE survey: Do sports journalism students come out with basic reporting skills?

Former APSE president Tim Stephens posted results of a survey with sports journalism hiring managers, instructors and students.

He writes: “(The goal is)  to learn more about the priorities in the classroom as well as the priorities in the newsroom. The goal is to outline where the interests of universities and the newsrooms are in alignment as well as areas upon which they could work together to strengthen the connection of interests and priorities.”

Definitely some interesting perspective. Here is a key finding about the preparation of sports journalism students:

– Hiring managers are concerned about recent graduates’ knowledge of basic reporting skills. Twenty-six percent of hiring-manager respondents expressed moderate to strong negative feelings when asked if recent graduates they have seen as job candidates in the past three years have the ability to obtain information from public records requests and by research and interviews. While that is lower than the number of positive respondents (36 percent), it is an alarming number nonetheless, especially when paired with 38 percent of respondents holding no strong opinion at all. Conversely, only 13 percent of educators and students held moderate to strong negative views, and 73 percent of educators and 66 percent of students/graduates held moderate to strong beliefs that they do have strong basic reporting skills.

Said one hiring manager: “Some schools are doing a better job than others with the new breed of journalists. I have seen a dip in the quality of reporting skills.”

“I have found that candidates today are better prepared for providing info on different platforms and are more proficient at multi-tasking,” one hiring manager said. “While helpful, that doesn’t mean they are better reporters and/or writers than the candidates before them.”

Not every hiring manager sees this as a problem.

“It’s a buyer’s market. These kids coming out of school don’t have all the reporting skills that past generations of journalists had, but for [news organization redacted] to resonate as a relevant brand in an all-digital space, that’s a sacrifice well worth making,” one hiring manager said. “The payoff is in their multimedia skill sets. In that respect, these kids are ready to walk into our newsroom and make valuable contributions right away. They understand what news readers will want to consume, how to deliver it to them and how to maximize its reach without leaning on website promotion. Our younger hires and interns have added an important element of diversity to a newsroom that already had its share of strong journalists.”


One student respondent agreed with hiring managers who were critical of graduates’ basic reporting skills. “I think that social media has been pushed so hard that students are not developed in a specific area of expertise. I can’t tell you how many students/professional sports journalists [I have met] who don’t even know how to keep their own stats or how to FOIA (or even what that stands for). Yikes!”

Yikes, indeed.

Yet there are opportunities out there for students who learn the craft.

– Hiring managers and educators see opportunities growing for recent graduates. Sixty-two percent of hiring managers answered moderately to strongly positively when asked if salary requirements in their departments have led them to consider less-experienced applicants than they may have considered in the past. Eighty-four percent of educators held moderate to strong beliefs that this is true. Conversely, 41 percent of students/graduates held no opinion at all.

“Salary requirements have been an issue for me,” one hiring manager said. “Reporters with a few years of experience usually ask for a higher salary than my company offers.”

But not every hiring manager agrees. Smaller and mid-sized news organizations may find they are able to compete for experienced job candidates in a way that they did not previously.

“If anything, I am looking at better qualified candidates than my predecessors have because while our salaries have stayed the same, those of so many other organizations have come down closer to our level,” one hiring manager said.

What this means, if true, is that recent graduates with strong skills sets may be able to compete for jobs at larger organizations that they may have previously thought unattainable but they may also find more competition against experienced journalists in smaller organizations that previously would have been viewed as entry-level opportunities for them.

I liked the results of this question.

– Many hiring managers would leave the newsroom if they could.Almost 25 percent of surveyed hiring managers said they envision themselves teaching as a university journalism professor at some point in their careers, and 39 percent had moderate to strong feelings that they would leave the newsroom to teach if they could.

Of course. Everyone is looking for a place to land these days.


2 thoughts on “APSE survey: Do sports journalism students come out with basic reporting skills?

  1. The problem is systemic to society overall. I call it in basic terms, “the dumb-ing down of America.”

    Keep lowering standards, keep pushing social media at the expense of what broadcasting / journalism is supposed to be all about and this is what happens.

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