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Journalism Employability in the Modern Newsroom: Insights From Applicant Resumes and Cover Letters

, Jason Sternberg

Abstract: What skills, attributes, and experiences are needed for a visual journalism job in a contemporary print and digital newsroom? Previous attempts at answering this question examine it through insights from hiring managers or news editors, often collected retrospectively or at arbitrary times of the year through surveys; analyses of position descriptions, which are often framed in normative terms; or through analyzing journalism curricula, which perpetually struggle to adapt nimbly to evolving industry demands. This signaling theory study adopts a novel approach by examining, through qualitative thematic analysis, all applicants’ resumes and cover letters submitted by candidates for a visual journalism job posted in 2019. The hiring organization sought a candidate who could not only tell newsworthy stories through images but also one who could “write their own stories,” “have strong organizational skills,” and be “knowledgeable about current digital technology and applications for smartphone photography.” The results provide insight into the types of applicants who apply to such a position; the skills, attributes, and experiences employers regard as worthy of shortlisting; and the strategies candidates adopted in addressing the position description and selection criteria.
Keywords: visual journalism jobs / skill sets / journalism education / journalism training / journalism hiring / journalism jobs / journalism employability

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