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September 21 2010

14:24

What’s in a journalism job ad? Analysing the skills required by employers

Following on from our laid-off report looking at journalism job losses and how the shape of the journalism workforce in the UK is changing, I thought it would be interesting to do a quick analysis of the job ads currently available on Journalism.co.uk. What requirements and skills are employers stipulating and which are the most popular?

(I took the text from job ads on the site that list requirements or candidate profiles and have tried to take out irrelevant words as much as possible)Similar Posts:



September 17 2010

17:00

Yeah, but what does it mean for journalism? A visual rhetoric guide

It’s become something of a Twitter joke. A new gadget appears, or a dramatic development takes place on the world stage, and the cry goes up: But what does it mean for journalism? I’m guilty of it myself. And a lot of the time, it’s a meaningful question to ask; we are in the future-of-journalism business, after all. What would we spend our day doing if not inquiring about what it — all of it– means for journalism.

That said, I wanted to try a little experiment. And so using Wordle, some time-delimited Google searches, and quick-and-dirty cutting and pasting, I decided to take a look at how the conversation about “what it means for journalism” might have changed, or not changed, since 2008.

The results are below. But first, a little bit about what I did. I plugged a few searches into Google, namely “what” AND “future of journalism.” I time-delimited the search, looking only for results from 2008, then only from 2009, then only 2010. I scraped the text from all my results, and dropped them into OpenOffice. I then deleted all mentions of “journalism,” “media,” and “news,” figuring they’d be the most common and least interesting answers, and wanting to weigh the words without them included in Wordle. And here’s what I got.

2008 [full-size version here]: Words that jump out: “public,” “interest,” “material,” “interactivity,” “information.” The combination of “public” and “interest” are the most interesting to me here. It was an election, after all, perhaps there was a bit more discussion of that amorphous body we call “the public,” and how it relates to changes in journalism. There’s a little about journalists, though not as much as we’ll see in 2009.

2009 [full size]: “Public” has disappeared, as has “information.” It’s been replaced by “people,” “journalist,” “online,” “world,” “web,” “paper,” and “think.” There’s some question about medium at play here; this was the year of “what comes after newspapers die,” after all. I have to admit I was a little surprised there weren’t more words having to do with “morbidity” here, stuff like “death,” “dying,” “disappearing, or “crisis.” But I think the focus on “journalist” here reflects the industry crisis in its own way — as in, what about all those people losing their jobs?

2010 [full size]: Now here’s the “what does it mean for journalism” conversation I remember — iPad and WikiLeaks. Will either of them save journalism? We’ll see what the rest of the year brings, but for now, it looks to me like a fairly abstract conversation about journalism and the public has been replaced by a debate over particular types of mediums (paper and web), which has itself been supplanted by a focus on particular organizations and devices.

Now, all of this is incredibly crude measurement, and there’s a ton wrong with it. (Let’s just say my methodology wouldn’t pass peer review.) Time-limited Google searching is imperfect, and of course I’ve totally left out stuff like Twitter and Facebook. But I think there’s a germ of potential here for mapping particular forms of dialog around particular key phrases. I’d love to work with any data-happy, data-mining Twitter scholars or smart Google engineers to pursue this line of work further. Drop me a line if you’re interested.

January 06 2010

17:00

What qualifies as a Spotlight story on Google News? Here’s a few clues

Google News launched a Spotlight section back in September to highlight “in-depth pieces of lasting value.” Initial response was positive, but with a few months under its belt I checked in to see if the feature is living up to that first flush of excitement.

The verdict?

It all depends on how you define “in-depth” and “lasting value.” The material on the page is certainly different from what you typically find on Google News. It’s a nice sample of deeper stories. But visiting the section doesn’t inspire the curiosity and intellectual satisfaction you’d get from a great magazine, newspaper or documentary film. “Lasting” isn’t a word that springs to mind. I’m guessing that has something to do with the algorithm.

Getting around the algorithm issue

The Spotlight page, like all of Google News, is automatically generated by one of Google’s secret algorithms. It’s impossible to discern exactly how stories are selected because Google guards algorithms the way Kentucky Fried Chicken protects those 11 herbs and spices.

But if Google News’ general ranking rules apply to the Spotlight page, there might be a few clues within this video from Maile Ohye, a tech lead at Google (full transcript is here). In the video, Ohye notes that Google uses keywords to categorize articles within Google News. That’s how a story ends up in business, sports, etc. Ohye used the following example to describe the classification process:

So you can see on this article, “The Millions Kozlowski Didn’t Steal.” We actually take out individual words, like business, Tyco, money, and CFO, and understand that this article pertains to the section of business.

Carrying this out a bit, it’s possible Spotlight articles are partially determined by a list of keywords and phrases. I’m thinking words like society, impact, and trend could signal the kind of bigger/deeper stories appropriate for Spotlight. On a lark, I combined all the text from 10 Spotlight stories into a Wordle cloud to see if any “lasting” words stood out. No luck on that front, though.

Truth is, there’s no way to fully understand how Spotlight stories become Spotlight stories because Google goes mum whenever algorithms are discussed. I asked. They politely declined.

So I went with the next best thing: grunt work. I took a snapshot of the Spotlight page on Jan. 4, 2010 at 12:02 p.m. and dug into the top 10 stories to see if any obvious commonalities were at play. (These are the same 10 stories I plugged into Wordle.) Here’s what I found:

Length: five of the 10 stories were more than 1,000 words long.

Posting date: seven stories were published four days before I took the snapshot (Dec. 31, 2009).

Comments: six stories had received more than 50 comments.

Source: nine stories were from what I’d consider to be major publishers.

The stories were all over the map topic-wise: straight news, financial analysis, sports, and even a Wall Street Journal column from Karl Rove. If there’s topical targeting here, I couldn’t find it.

As for the lingering criteria — “in-depth” and “lasting value” — I’ll say yes on the former and no on the latter. Many of the stories were deep dives into a particular issue, so those certainly qualify as in-depth. Something achieves “lasting value” in my mind if it goes beyond strict just-the-facts reporting or knee-jerk reactions. By that criteria, the New York Times’ “Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned” is the only story that fits. Everything else was fleeting. Interesting, certainly, but not likely to be relevant in a few weeks.

Here’s the raw data from my analysis. Let me know if you spot any wayward trends I might have missed.

Story No. 1. The Biggest Losers
(Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 2010)

Type: Opinion
Word count: 953
Comments: 70

2. Google Plans Google Voice Enhancements
(TMCnet, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: News analysis
Word count: 430
Comments: 0

3. Come Buy With Me and Be My Love
(New York Times, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: Feature story
Word count: 1,865
Comments: Not enabled

4. Civil rights hero caught in corruption probe to begin serving sentence
(CNN, Jan. 4, 2010)

Type: News story
Word count: 1,219
Comments: 103

5. It’s All in How You See It: The Resolution Revolution
(Huffington Post, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: Advice column from Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Word count: 1,346
Comments: 133

6. New Year’s Resolutions for Washington
(Wall Street Journal, Dec. 30, 2009)

Type: Opinion piece by Karl Rove
Word count: 830
Comments: 236

7. 2010 Draft prospects in BCS games
(SI.com, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: Sports analysis
Word count: 1,847
Comments: Not enabled

8. Hole in the Moon Could Shelter Colonists
(FOXNews.com, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: News story
Word count: 403
Comments: 14

9. Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned
(New York Times, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: Investigative report
Word count: 3,090
Comments: 383

10. 3 reasons home prices are heading lower
(CNNMoney.com, Dec. 31, 2009)

Type: Financial analysis
Word count: 695
Comments: 86

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