U.S., international journalists demand more digital training, says new report from Knight Foundation

In a new report from the Knight Foundation examining digital training and continuing education in newsrooms, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas was noted for its especially highly rated online distance learning program that in 2010 and 2011 trained more than 2,500 Latin American and Caribbean journalists, most of whom said they used their training and were likely to recommend it, and that the online training was as good as or better than traditional in-person training.

Digital Training Comes of Age,” the new report from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, released Thursday, Aug. 9, surveyed 600 alumni of Knight-funded programs, finding that "the digital tsunami that upended the news industry is remaking the journalism training landscape as well," according to the Knight Digital Media Center. The report focuses on eight Knight-funded programs besides the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, and explores questions such as whether journalists believe their newsrooms are keeping up with the pace of technological change, and what kinds of training journalists want.

In the report, nine out of 10 Knight Center alumni surveyed said the Knight Center's online training was as good as, or better than, traditional classroom training, which could indicate that "the Knight Center training is high-quality, or, because the measure is relative, it could also mean that traditional training in Latin America and South America is of poor quality or simply does not exist."

Roughly 77 percent of the Knight Center alumni surveyed said they have used what they learned from Knight Center training to a great or very great extent, and 76 percent said they have passed what they learned on to others. For example, according to the report, since Argentine journalist Ana D’Onofrio participated in one of the Knight Center's online courses in 2008, some 300 journalists from the Argentine newspaper La Nación have taken part in online and in-person training, leading to major digital enhancements in the newsroom, such as an increase in Web traffic, a spike in blogs, and advances in data journalism.

About 92 percent of surveyed journalists said they have recommended Knight Center courses to others, and 74 percent said they were extremely likely to recommend Knight Center training. As journalist Lenara Guadagnin Londero of Brazil said in the report, the "“Knight Center is like a compass in the sea of information that is the Internet.”

The report also found that online training such as that the Knight Center provides in particularly popular for journalists outside the United States, as training of any kind is more difficult to come by. In general, the report "shows that training – though still undervalued by the news industry – can make a big difference, propelling journalists to find new ways to create journalism that stands above the work of their colleagues in both technique and impact."

Key findings from the report demonstrate a growing demand for training, as roughly a quarter of surveyed journalists were dissatisfied with their opportunities for training, and 85 percent said they would benefit from more training. In particular, journalists said they wanted more multimedia, data analysis, and technology training, Poynter pointed out. Interestingly, most journalists gave their news outlets poor grades in terms of the training they offer: six in 10 rated their news organizations as a C or worse when it came to meeting journalists' training needs.

Overall, 96 percent of journalists surveyed said they used their training in their work, two-thirds said "the training helped them bring greater depth to their work or create more engaging journalism," according to the report, and more than half said training "helped them do work that made an impact in their communities."

Also of note is that the report shows nearly half of surveyed journalists use their own money to pay for training, which ranged from $27 to $10,000, with an average of $751 spent on training during the previous year. More international journalists (57 percent) than U.S. journalists (38 percent) paid for training in the previous year.

Other important findings from the report show that more than 90 of surveyed journalists said "their organizations “must become learning organizations and establish a culture of experimentation and adaptation
to survive in the digital age,” but less than 60 percent said they actually see that coming to pass. Further, only about half said their news organizations are keeping up with technological changes, and only about half are optimistic about the future of traditional news outlets in this digital era.

As such, the report noted, "professional development will play a key role in the transformation of the news landscape. Not all news organizations will survive the transition to the digital age. The ones that make it will be nimble, adaptable. They’ll have learning cultures, where training is built into the daily routine."

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.