Why newsroom staffs are getting younger and what that means

Jan 29th, 2013 | By | Category: News

Photo © shironosov, iStockphoto

Photo © shironosov, iStockphoto

By Joe Grimm
Michigan State University
School of Journalism

Four powerful forces are making staffs younger:

* Thousands of buyouts have culled older, higher-paid employees. This has damaged institutional knowledge.

* To cut payrolls and protect staffing levels, managers are hiring younger and cheaper people.

* Young people more often possess today’s sought-after skills such as editing video, creating for mobile platforms and social media.

* The housing crash means people with homes are not as mobile as people who do not own homes, who can more easily move into jobs, but who have fewer roots.

What this all means is that the average age in newsrooms is declining, that there is a lack of mentoring (or time for it) and that younger people will be asked much earlier in their careers to step into leadership roles.

This could be said about many industries. As the profile of newsroom staffers is changing, so are the newsrooms themselves. Legacy buildings are being sold (watch Gannett, Newhouse and Tribune Co.) and smaller staffs are being moved into smaller, rented quarters with fewer walls and permanent work stations. The staff is becoming more fluid.

This rapid change means newsrooms and other industries will have to work like crazy to hold onto the people they recruit or surrender to revolving-door hiring that will spin faster and faster as the economy perks up. The quality of hires will decline and the highest attrition will be among the people with the greatest talent. Newsrooms that fail to invest in personnel will find themselves in a vicious talent drain.


* Train for quality.
* Train to retain.
* Rebuild talent pipelines, but not in the old ways.
* Develop and support great managers.
* Take advantage of the value in employees at every experience level.

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