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What do we owe the next generation?

“We’re at risk of permanently losing a generation of journalists to other fields due to instability — but also because of poor management, lack of support, and opportunities for growth.”

If we continue to overinvest in short-term traffic goals and platforms, and if media revenue models pivot at our current unsustainable rates across the industry, we will rapidly lose early-career journalists. We’re at risk of permanently losing a generation of journalists to other fields due to instability — but also because of poor management, lack of support, and opportunities for growth. In 2019, we’ll see more of the effects of losing those journalists in our coverage, audience, and revenue, and thus begin to take on the responsibility to rebuild those pipelines together.

In the past year, journalism schools across the country have seen spikes in applications, in part due to the current administration’s campaign against reputable news organizations, the inspiring investigative work reporters do to hold powerful institutions to account, and the unprecedented reader support for news organizations. We’re seeing a rise in passionate new journalists who want to do good work, but we have too few good starting opportunities to give them.

Those of us who hire, manage, mentor, sponsor, and retain new journalists have a responsibility to make sure our staffs reflect the people we’re covering. We also need to invest in the growth of new journalists who have to navigate careers in a more precarious phase of our industry without as much experience to leverage or fall back on. Those of us who have influence in recruiting need to purposely participate in networks of applicants with a wide range of personal, educational, socioeconomic, and professional backgrounds. We need to build relationships with journalism, design, technology, and business schools or continuing education programs in different parts of the country. Those of us who manage people owe it to ourselves to foster an environment where feedback from our direct reports is encouraged and heard and to grow our management skills as much as any others we develop for our roles.

All of us can participate in professionalizing the way we recruit, particularly for entry- and middle-level journalism roles, so that the best person for the job comes from a diverse pool of candidates. All of us need to support and partner with organizations of underrepresented journalists, including NAJA, NAHJ, NLGJA, NABJ, SAJA, and AAJA.

Our society will always need a free press, which depends on future journalists staying in the profession and being able to support themselves, seek new opportunities in the field and grow in their careers. Media leaders need to commit to figuring out what sustainability means for their own institutions and carving out paths for growth that ultimately benefit their audiences. Foundations and boards need to seek out and invest in new media concepts led by smart journalists who have new ideas about what we need to cover, how, and audiences that are being overlooked.

There will never be easy solutions, but each of us has an opportunity to help bring up the next generation of journalists and pay forward the opportunities and support we received at the beginning of our careers.

Elite Truong is deputy editor for strategic initiatives at The Washington Post.

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Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?