HOME
          
LATEST STORY
iOS 8: How 5 news orgs have updated their apps for Apple’s new operating system
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 13, 2012, 10:48 a.m.
cnn-newsroom-cc

Meredith Artley: Here’s what we look for when we hire young journalists, j-school grads or not

The managing editor of CNN’s digital operations says coding and multimedia skills are becoming more common among new hires, but that specialized knowledge is getting hard to find.

Editor’s Note: It’s the start of the school year, which means students are returning to journalism programs around the country. As the media industry continues to evolve, how well is new talent being trained, and how well are schools preparing them for the real world?

We asked an array of people — hiring editors, recent graduates, professors, technologists, deans — to evaluate the job j-schools are doing and to offer ideas for how they might improve. Over the coming days, we’ll be sharing their thoughts with you. Here’s Meredith Artley, vice president and managing editor of CNN Digital, offering insight on what she’s seeing when she looks to hire digital journalists today.

At CNN Digital, we’ve welcomed more than two dozen digital journalists in the past year to strengthen our web and mobile sites (and an additional few dozen more in non-journalism positions like research, product, operations, and business strategy). It’s wonderful to be at a company that is investing in journalism and in digital journalists.

It’s a far more competitive market than even five years ago. That’s great for me and my peers in the industry who are hiring. But for the applicants, it places a premium on not just showing us that you have the skills, but showing what you uniquely can bring to the job. The job goes to people who don’t just have the skills, but to those who demonstrate knowledge and curiosity about the job, the company and the broader digital landscape.

The main mistake I see recent college grads make in interviews — and sometimes not-so-recent grads as well — is an expectation of a one-way conversation. I’ve seen candidates with strong resumes who haven’t appeared to have done their homework or haven’t come with their own questions. It could be anything — tell me something you like or don’t like about CNN, ask me to describe the culture of the newsroom, share an observation about a competitor. Just don’t expect a passive experience where we ask the questions, then you supply answers and wait for the next question. I’ve always seen interviews as an opportunity for a conversation, and to learn if it’s a right fit for both parties, no matter what side of the table I’m on.

Skill-wise, people who have the killer journalist/coder combo have been a hot commodity for some time. But those candidates now are becoming easier to find thanks to schools evolving their programs by melding programming and journalism courses, and people who learn interactive reporting skills on the job.

It’s getting harder to find specialists in certain beats. There are generalists galore. A broad curiosity about the world is a good prerequisite for landing a job in journalism, but the resumes that show specialized interest and experience in a beat or topic are increasingly rare and precious — health, foreign affairs, science, education, religion, to name a few.

I remember when I landed my first journalism job — I had the luck of graduating from the University of Missouri in 1995 with some actual web journalism experience already under my belt. Those things, along with a connection with an alumnus I made at school, eventually got me in the door as one of the first web producers for The New York Times. During the interview, I was proud of my journalism degree from one of the best j-schools in the country. My wonderful and frank boss-to-be, Bernie Gwertzman, told me he didn’t necessarily “believe in” journalism degrees. He noted that some of the best journalists he knew had deep expertise in a topic and then learned how to be journalists. I wouldn’t change my own path for anything in the world, but I don’t consider a journalism degree to be a job requirement.

Also, the resume is no longer queen. It’s one of many tools for your potential employer to get to know you better, and it’s rarely the first impression we get of a candidate. I generally hear a name or recommendation from someone inside or outside the company. If I get an email, remember — the message will be read before the resume. Sometimes I’ll hear the name of a candidate, and then me or someone on the team will do a quick search to look at that person’s digital and social presence. We may not see a resume until much later.

At a big global company like CNN, we have a well-oiled machine of recruiters, HR staff, and relocation experts. I’ve been working as digital editor for more than 15 years, and looking back at the scrappy hiring practices of web sites in the late ’90s, it’s a luxury to have this support in identifying the best talent out there. While the recruiting and hiring process has changed dramatically, much of the basics remain the same.

Photo by David used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Sept. 13, 2012, 10:48 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
iOS 8: How 5 news orgs have updated their apps for Apple’s new operating system
ABC, the AP, Breaking News, The Guardian, and The New York Times have all updated apps (or introduced new ones) to take advantage of new features on iOS 8.
How the new Wall Street Journal iPad app is taking advantage of new features in iOS 8
The app, released with the operating system today, has more functionality in notifications and lets users continue reading articles across Apple devices.
The Baffler: The anti-innovation magazine embraces digital
With a brand new website, The Baffler seeks the audience and impact it missed the first time around.
What to read next
749
tweets
How a Norwegian public radio station is using Snapchat to connect young listeners with news
“A lot of people check their phones before they get out of the bed in the morning, and they check social media before the news sites.”
724When it comes to chasing clicks, journalists say one thing but feel pressure to do another
Newsroom ethnographer Angèle Christin studied digital publications in France and the U.S. in order to compare how performance metrics influence culture.
691Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news
“The audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
NewsTilt
Fox News
MediaNews Group
EveryBlock
Global Voices
Daily Kos
TechCrunch
Daily Mail
California Watch
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Detroit Free Press and Detroit News
Craigslist