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March 2, 2017, 2 p.m.
LINK: opennews.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   March 2, 2017

The journalism-tech community tends to be white, male, and relatively young, according to OpenNews’ News Nerd Survey released Thursday to coincide with the annual NICAR conference.

Last summer, OpenNews surveyed 514 journalism-focused developers in an attempt to better understand the demographics of the community and learn about participants’ experiences working in newsrooms.

66 percent of survey respondents said they were under the age 35, with 51 percent falling in the 26- to 35-year-old range. Only 8 percent were ages 46 or older.

67 percent of participants identified as male.

About 75 percent of US-based respondents identified as non-Hispanic white.

OpenNews hopes to use this demographic data to encourage newsrooms to make more diverse hires.

“It showed how young and how male this community is at this point,” OpenNews deputy director Erika Owens said. “It sets a baseline for what we can do to broaden it and make sure it does it reflect the rest of the news organization.”

She said news organizations don’t have an excuse to say “we can’t find a person who isn’t a white male, they just don’t exist.”

“If a team has 10 percent women, they’re really out of step with what is reflected in the community overall,” Owens said. “76 percent identified as white. If there aren’t any people of color on your team, you’re not representative of the community.”

One-quarter of respondents said a top priority of the journo-tech community should be a focus on more diversity and inclusivity.

The idea for a survey originated in 2015. Brian Hamman, The New York Times’ executive director of technology for news products, and ProPublica deputy managing editor Scott Klein led a session at that year’s SRCCON to discuss a possible census. Taking that feedback, OpenNews worked with Network Impact to develop and conduct the survey. OpenNews plans to continue to conduct a News Nerd Survey annually.

Hamman said he wanted to help put out the census to better understand the state of the community in order to help people advance their careers.

“For a lot of people in the survey, which is something I saw over my career, they are the first person to ever have their job at their organization,” Hamman said. “There’s not a clear career path for where to go next.”

43 percent of respondents said they’d been working in journalism tech for five or more years, and OpenNews wants to help those developers advance their careers and move up the ranks within newsrooms.

“These folks in this 26-35 age range have 5 to 10 years working in this field,” Owens said. They’re getting more established and they need to be supported.”

More than 35 percent of the respondents said they work on teams of two-to-five people. And 10 percent said they were a team of one.

Respondents offered a number of suggestions for how OpenNews and the community as a whole could better support those in smaller newsrooms. 16 percent said they’d like more open-source tools, and 15 percent said up-to-date guides on available open-source tools and best practices would be helpful.

14 percent said it’d be helpful to have better access to tools that can be used by non-technologists and another 14 percent said they’d like increased training for top editors and non-technical co-workers.

Owens said the data reiterated that OpenNews wants to work to expand its offerings to assist news nerds no matter the size of their newsroom or where they are in their careers. “We really saw in the data something that we were seeing and experiencing in our work at in terms of the opportunity to support the people behind the code better instead of the emphasis just on the code,” Owens said.

You can read the full survey here.

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