A Comparative Analysis of New Media Skills Sought by the Media Industry and Courses Offered
by Journalism and Mass Communication Graduate Programs in the United States
Dr. Sandhya Rao
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Texas State Universi
601 University Drive
San Marcos, TX
Emily S. Lyons
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, TX
The rapid changes in media te
chnologies have given rise to continuing academic debates on how
best to offer industry
relevant curricula. Researchers examined new media and other skills sought by the
media industry and those taught in selected graduate programs in the United States by
doing a content
analysis of job postings and graduate course descriptions. Overall, there appeared to be a match between
skills sought by the industry and those taught in the graduate programs. Results of this study will
promote a better understanding of j
ournalism and mass communication graduate program curricula.
“These are extraordinary times. The media landscape is in the process of being completely
transformed, tossed upside down; reinvented and restructured in ways we know
, and in ways we
know. The process of change is far from over. Indeed, it will never be over. The pace
of technological change will not abate, it will only quicken”
Newspapers, television, radio and other media organizations
now have myriad ways of
communicating with their audiences thanks to computers, the Internet, mobile phones and social media.
The changes that have occurred over the last 25 years have only accelerated manifold in recent years and
continue to evolve. Durin
g this period, journalism schools have debated their curricula and made
numerous changes to teach students to tell a journalistic story by including multimedia elements in their
written story. Technical skills, entrepreneurial skills, data management skill
s, computational skills, data
visualization, web design, and the skills to continue to learn new skills have all been discussed. The fact
that millions and sometimes more than a
around the world read
reases the importance of ethics and responsibility
. For example, Mashable, a popular
news source for the ‘connected generation’ claims to have 20 million unique visitors each month
e viral video “Gangnam Style” reached more than a bi
llion viewers in
December 2012 (Grandoni, 2012). Yet, there are no specific answers and journalism programs continue
to face the challenges of designing programs that are relevant.
There are numerous fact
ors that influence the development of curriculum in master’s programs.
Whether the programs are general or specific to a niche area, factors such as program goals, market
demand, career prospects, faculty availability and specialization play an important r
ole. In addition,
programs need to find a competitive edge by offering a unique program not duplicated in the area.
Industry skills in the changing media environment are perhaps the most important factors.
Research on the gap between the newsroom and the
classroom shows that there is a gap and that
it continues to grow. According to Jerry Ceppos (2012), “The chasm between some professionals and
some academics is growing because perceptions about journalism education, and some realities about it,
as old as our conventions in awarding degrees.”
Most research so far has focused on undergraduate education.
This research focuses on master’s
programs in journalism and mass communication and its scope goes beyond jobs in newspaper
goals of the paper are to:
(1) Identify the new media and other skills sought by media employers,
(2) Identify the new media and other skills being taught by journalism and mass communication
graduate programs, and
(3) Examine if a gap exists between the
skills sought by media employers and skills taught by
journalism and mass communication graduate programs
Results of this study will enable graduate programs to modify and evolve the curriculum as
needed. Such a process is a continuous one and studies suc
h as this are crucial in making graduate
education relevant in this rapidly changing media environment. Besides, the study also discusses the
learning modules that are needed to embrace the changes.
Theoretical Framework and Literature Review
A theory th
at is helpful in understanding the adoption of courses with new media skills is the
diffusion of innovations (Rogers, 2003) both at the individual and organizational levels. At the
individual level, the theory can help explain why or why not an individual
faculty may be adopting new
technology skills and incorporating these in the courses he or she teaches. At the institutional level, the
theory helps one understand whether the journalism/mass communication department perceives that a
gap in the skills it o
ffers and those needed by the industry in that area exists and takes action to close this
gap. According to Rogers, there are five stages in the diffusion of innovations in organizations. He says,
setting and matching, together constitute
, defined as all of the information
gathering, conceptualizing, and planning for the adoption of an innovation, leading up to the decision to
adopt” (p. 420). The implementation stage consists of making the innovation fit into the organization,
efining the role of that innovation in the organization and routinizing which is a stage where the
innovation loses its newness (Rogers).
researched the gap between online journalism education and practice by
examining the skills m
ost needed for online journalism in job descriptions as well as studying the
perceptions of online journalism instructors and online journalists by conducting a survey. They
distributed surveys to all 180 instructors listed in the Online News Association d
irectory and received a
56% response rate.
They also sent surveys to a random sample of 151 online journalists based on the
size of the daily newspapers listed in the Audit Bureau of Circulations
and received a 32% response rate.
Only 16% of the professio
nals had a post graduate degree compared with 91% of the instructors. While
30% of the instructors had more than 10 years of professional experience, 55% of the journalists had
more than 10 years of experience. The researchers identified several skills bas
ed on job descriptions
Web Usability, Dreamweaver, Graphics Design, Web Layout and/or User Interface Design,
Flash, SQL, Search Engine Optimization, Blogging Tools, HTML and Photoshop, and general skills
such as news judgment and writing summary
content for the web.
Du and Thornburg did not
find the gap to be very wide as there was some amount of agreement about the basic skills and concepts
that are needed to be taught. They found that the journalists and professors agreed on seven of t
he top 10
skills. However, the journalists emphasized skills such as web design, HTML and Photoshop, while
instructors felt that grammar and style, and Flash appeared to be more important. Professional journalists
and instructors agreed that duties such as
writing original stories, editing scripts and project management
were important although they differed in their rankings of these duties.
The authors state that project
management and staff organization are important skills that are needed in today’s jour
As multitasking was found to be an important concept valued by the professionals in the industry, the
authors suggest that students need to be managing several classes at once versus learning the most in any
Boers et al (2012
) observe that because traditional channels such as radio, television and print
have converged and because there are new platforms such as mobile phones and iPad, multi
perspective and writing across media platforms are essential. The changes in th
e media technologies
have also led to a need to change curricula. Boers et al state that “…
there is no doubt that in the age of
convergence, practical skills training cannot be separated from the ability of students to use multi
technology in any kin
d of digital platform, thereby forcing the faculty to enrich the departmental
curricula with new courses, as well as restructuring and updating the old ones in line with these new
needs” (p.59). They also rightly observe that in order to teach these new co
urses journalism departments
need to be equipped with the appropriate hardware and software.
Claussen, in his editorial note in
Journalism and Mass Communication Educator
summarized the skills and qualities that conference presenters said jo
urnalism and mass communication
students need to possess: “innovative and entrepreneurial, flexible, competitive, highly educated,
lifelong learners, resourceful, persistent/resilient, and internationally minded,” apart from traditional
skills such as good
writing and interviewing skills. He says that the best students will get jobs
irrespective of industry and economy changes. But overall, few would graduate with all the variety of
skills required of them. He raises the question, “What are you going to do
for your even average/typical,
let alone marginal, student who does not?” (p.214).
Fuse and Lambiase (2010) surveyed
alumni from large public universities
to find out whether the 11 professional values and competencies required to measur
e student outcomes
at ACEJMC accredited institutions were useful in a professional setting. They concluded, “Journalism
and mass communication programs need to work harder to make connections between the large
knowledge sets that are taught (e.g., history,
diversity, statistics, technology) and the skills
competencies that alumni perceive as most valuable (e.g., writing).” They recommend that the programs
teach the competencies separately but also enable students to see the big picture so that they
the work world that they will be entering.
Scheuer (2007) says that while subject knowledge and skills are both important in journalism, he
suggests that in place of skills courses, campus journalism and internships should be required at both th
undergraduate and graduate levels. He says that this would allow for teaching more core classes. He
recommends placing greater importance on critiquing journalistic issues.
Can a journalism and mass communication student possibly learn all the skills nee
ded for the job
market? In his article “Learning to do it all,” Powers (2012) gives the example of a journalism student
who chose the sampler platter approach by taking journalism, broadcast, online and other courses and
doing six internships. Powers says
that the student, Arelis Hernandez, secured a job at the Orlando
Sentinel as a breaking news reporter and her job involves skills such as shooting and editing videos and
sending it out via Twitter. Powers also found that some are of the opinion that specia
lization in some
areas and familiarity in others may work. Powers reported that some advocated a balanced approach
with a mix of skill
courses and fundamental courses such as writing and editing that would prepare a
student to become a multi
Carpenter (2009) did a content analysis of 664 online media ads posted on Journalismjobs.com.
She found that nearly 82% of the ads stated a preference for broad
based knowledge. A large number of
ads asked for knowledge outside the journalism area a
nd required applicants to be creative and
independent. Of the routine technical skills mentioned, knowledge of HTML/CSS ranked the highest,
followed by posting of content and image editing. She found that designing
skills most infreq
uently mentioned. Regarding routine skills, ability to write, work under deadlines and
copy editing were the most preferred while interviewing skills and multimedia writing were not
mentioned often. She expresses concern that emphasis on skills may mean le
ss importance being placed
on teaching core theoretical foundations.
Instructional methods and learning modules are also undergoing numerous changes based on the
changes in technology and lifestyles, with more people teaching and attending classes in off
locations. Researches have recognized the value of activities such as peer networking and interactions,
collaborative learning, and self
directed learning. For example, Huang and Shiu (2012) state that users
learning 2.0 are empowered to be dec
ision makers in their own learning process as it enables them
to learn by sharing knowledge and resources. Boers et al (2012)
say that the theoretical framework has
also changed due to Web 2.0 based learning that focuses on collaborative learning. Accordin
g to them,
“…collaboration and peer
peer problem solving have fostered a theoretical approach often referred to
as connectivism. Within a connectivist framework the web as a whole is regarded as a platform where
communities are formed and students are g
enerators and aggregators of content” (p. 61).
Singh and Holt (2013) online communities of open
source software engage in problem solving together
and have a sense of community, which is often lacking in an online classroom. The authors say th
reason could be that the online students discuss class topics mainly in order to get a grade and not to
help each other succeed. The author created graded and ungraded forums to find out whether a problem
solving situation would facilitate the creatio
n of a community among the students. They found that the
ungraded forum that included providing resources and assisting others garnered a higher participation
and allowed students to develop a community where they shared their concerns and asked questions.
directed learning has also been found to be appropriate for learning in an evolving technology
environment. For example,
Carpenter (2009) suggests that students should be responsible for their own
learning and continue to gain knowledge to evolve wit
h the industry. Instructors are guides and
facilitators offering various types of courses including blended classes, and online classes, as well as
traditional classes that may use a variety of online skills. For example,
Zhuhadar, Yang & Lytras (2013)
searched the impact of Social Multimedia Systems (SMS
) that allow students to view video lectures in
different formats. They found that SMS was an effective tool for faculty to use in order to better engage
the students and to facilitate learning. Using S
MS also resulted in more positive outcomes such as
students’ success rates and motivation to study.
(1) What are the new media and other skills sought by media employers?
(2) What are the new media and other skills being taught by jour
nalism and mass communication
(3) Is there a gap between the skills sought by media employers and skills taught by journalism
and mass communication graduate programs?
The researchers carried out (1) a content analysis of
related job advertisements for
positions in the media industry and (2) examined courses offered by a selected sample of graduate
programs across the United States by looking at the information on their websites.
The content analysis
was done during
March and April 2013.
The websites examined were: JournalismJobs.com; CommunicationsJobs.com; Indeed.com and
and CommunicationsJobs.com were selected because they are field
specific career sites.
According to the their websi
te: “JournalismJobs.com is the largest and most
resource for journalism jobs and receives between 2.5 to 3 million page views a month”
(http://journalismjobs.com/about.cfm, April 11, 2013).
CommunicationsJobs.com posts social media and
bs among others.
Monster.com and Indeed.com are both ranked as top job search websites
April 11, 2013).
The job postings were selected based on relevancy and
immediacy. We started with the most
recent jobs listed and worked backward in chronological order. Jobs that were outside the
journalism/mass communication area were not included.
A total of 68 jobs across the journalism and
mass communication fields we
re randomly selected.
We looked at the Chronicle of Higher Education
for faculty positions in the area of journalism/mass communication. According to their website
Chronicle of Higher Education
is the No.
1 source of news, information, and jobs for college and
university faculty members and administrators” (http://chronicle.com/section/About
April 11, 2013). A total of 20 job postings were selected.
In order to find out what new media cou
rses are being offered and other skills being
taught in journalism and mass communication master's programs in the United States, we
selected two universities from each of the Census Bureau's nine divisions using the list of
Accrediting Council on Educatio
n in Journalism and Mass Communication
(http://www2.ku.edu/~acejmc/student/proglist.shtml), ACEJMC accredited journalism schools to
come up with a total of 18 schools. The ACEJMC listed 110 accredited undergraduate and
professional master’s programs. When
there was no accredited school with a mass
related graduate program within a given region, we selected large universities
with master's programs. We systematically went through each selected graduate program's listing
of its courses and their
descriptions. Then we identified skills in new media and “other” skills
listed in the respective course descriptions. Once compiled, we identified a listing of skills in
both categories for each school and removed any duplicates. Finally, comparing all sc
tallied the number of times each respective skill was listed to gauge the number of programs
teaching each skill.
“What are the new media and other skills sought by media employers?”
In order to answer the above question, we examin
ed job positions advertised on the four websites
(JournalismJobs.com; CommunicationsJobs.com; Indeed.com and Monster.com). The job positions were
ranging and included the following: communication specialist, copy editor, digital manager, social
coordinator, digital manager, reporter, copywriter, public relations specialist, and marketing
The new media skills that these positions required were varied. The most frequently mentioned
skill was Web
related and included website content man
agement, Web development and design, Web
production, Web management, Web
based tools, Web design, Web standards, webcasts, Web
programming, and Web comments. Of the 68 job positions examined, Web
related descriptions appeared
in 56 job descriptions, far mo
re than the 16 times digital
related words appeared (for example, digital
platforms, digital content, digital media, digital signage, digital marketing, and digital creation and
related words appeared 13 times and included online news, onl
ine video, online content
production, online reporting, online media, online journalism and online measurement. Terms such as
html (3), Flash (3), Photoshop (6), Illustrator (2), multimedia (2), and Adobe Creative Suite (3) were not
as frequently mentioned
. Database management, visualization, data mining and databases appeared six
A skill most frequently mentioned outside of new media was writing (including headline writing
and copywriting). It was mentioned in 33 postings. Editing was mentioned 18 t
imes. Other terms
mentioned were strategic planning and communication, problem solving, public relations, leadership,
multitasking, creativity, branding, project management, independent work, news judgment, research
skills, analytical skills and teamwork.
International experience was mentioned once.
Most of the jobs required a bachelor’s degree and only three industry positions required a
master’s degree. The number of years experience listed ranged from 0 to more than 10 years based on
the position, althou
gh most of the jobs required 2
3 years of experience.
Of the 21 teaching positions analyzed, 20 were in the Chronicle of Higher Education and one
was on JournalismJobs.com. The positions were in the areas of communication, journalism, media
production, data visualization and storytelling, PR and social media. The new media
skills these jobs listed included social media, digital skills, multimedia skills, Web
graphics, analytics, Adobe Creative Suite, and knowledge of database
s. The educational qualifications
ranged from a B.A. to a Ph.D. Some assistant/associate professor positions required an M.A. and not a
“What are the new media and other skills being taught by journalism and mass
In order to find answers to the second research question the researchers examined courses and
course descriptions of 18 universities in all the different regions of the United States. In total we found
that 102 new media
related classes were
offered by these institutions at the master’s and doctoral levels.
On average the schools offered 5.6 new media courses with the highest being 12 and the lowest being
none or 0. Based on the course descriptions we listed the skills being taught in these c
ourses and found
at least 56 different new media
related skills were being taught at various schools. The terms that most
frequently appeared were multimedia and multimedia storytelling (10) followed by new media/online
media (9), social media (9), data an
alysis (8), and digital shooting/editing/video (8). Other terms
mentioned less frequently included but were not limited to the following: New technologies/information
technology, blogging, photography, Web publishing/design, online news/magazine, computer
reporting, documentary, graphic design, Internet, new media ecosystems, databases, interactive media,
WordPress, jQuery, coding, media convergence, digital prod
uction, social networking and Adobe
Skills or areas widely taught other than new media skills included research/research methods
(16), writing/reporting (16), critical thinking/critical analysis/criticism (15), ethics (15), law (14), theory
(14), analysis (11), global/international skills (11), advertising/promotions (9), history (9), management
(9), followed by public relations, strategic communication, business/finance/economics,
campaign/campaign strategy, politics, environment, health, a
nalytical skills, creativity, problem
culture, diversity and other
Is there a gap between the skills sought by media employers and skills taught by
journalism and mass communication graduate programs?
The most frequently listed job
skills for professional positions were Web
related skills. The most frequently taught skills at universities were multimedia and
multimedia storytelling, new media/online media, social media and data analysis.
n new media
related skills, professional jobs required mainly writing and editing the
skills. Graduate programs most frequently offered research/research methods, writing/reporting, critical
thinking/critical analysis/criticism, ethics, law, and theory.
e teaching positions in new media that were analyzed asked for wide
ranging new media and
other skills including social media, digital skills, multimedia skills and Web
Based on our qualitative analysis it is not possible to say whether th
ere is a gap or not due to
many reasons. For one thing, most of the professional jobs required only an undergraduate degree and
all the programs we examined were graduate programs. Most of the teaching jobs, however, were for
those with a master’s or a doc
toral degree. We also looked at a small number of selected institutions. The
graduate programs in our sample appear to be doing a good job overall of teaching the skills required by
the industry while also training them to have a broader knowledge base.
Overall, our study found that there is a match between the skills listed in job postings and the
skills taught in graduate programs. Universities also taught wide
ranging skills including entrepreneurial
solving and cre
ativity although not consistently across the programs. We also found that
based on the course descriptions that some courses outside of new media courses also included new
media skills. This indicates that in at least some of the universities the process o
f adoption of new media
skills in the curriculum may be at a routinizing stage.
Although we did not find a gap in the skills, due to
the continuous and rapid changes in our field, the process of diffusion and adoption of new media skills
nd a plethora of terms used to describe the skills required by the industry and taught at
universities. While the skills may be the same, different terms are being used to describe the same
skills. For example web, online and digital are being used interch
angeably. This makes it difficult to
differentiate between many of the skills or count accurately how many different skills need to be taught.
It is also unrealistic for any program to train its students in all the skills. Some universities offer
nal programs and certificate programs in addition to traditional program that enable them to
offer more skills
based classes. Others are offering workshops designed to teach wide
New media faculty positions asked for educational qualificati
ons ranging from a bachelor’s to a
doctoral degree or a terminal degree such as an MFA. Some assistant/associate professor positions
required a master’s degree and not a terminal degree. This may be due to the fact that it continues to be
ult to get faculty with doctoral degrees that can teach new media courses and skills.
Although most industry jobs did not ask for a master’s degree, it is necessary for graduate
programs to offer the new media skills as these students are more likely to ta
ke up leadership positions
where they not only need to have these skills but will also need to supervise others doing new media
Unlike Carpenter (2009) who found that HTML/CSS ranked the highest among the skills listed
in job postings, we found
that these skills were hardly mentioned. While our study found that Web
skills were by far the most important skill mentioned, Carpenter found that designing websites was
among the skills most infrequently mentioned. This may be due to the fact that
there’s gap of four years
between when her study was published and when we did our content analysis. This is a long time in the
lives of new media technologies.
As journalism skills change due to the technology revolution, learning models are also changing
For example, the connectivism approach allows for increasing
peer networking and interactions,
collaborative learning via the Web, and self
directed learning allows students to be highly involved
participants and decision makers in their own learning pro
Universities should not only think of teaching these skills by updating their curricula but also
offer programs and courses in a format that allows students with changing lifestyles (such as learning
campus locations) to use online resources
. While many students and teachers continue to prefer
face interaction, there is no denying that many more could get graduate education if these were
accessible in other formats. The scope of this study did not allow us to find out how many of the
we examined were offered in an online, blended or other non
A weakness of this study was that the analysis was subjective and the size of the sample of
graduate programs was small. It was also difficult to accurately measure the ne
w media skills being
taught at journalism and mass communication programs based on the brief course descriptions. We
recommend that more studies be carried out on new media skills in journalism and mass communication
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