Two years ago the American Press Institute released a large-scale study of communication graduates, “Facing Change: The needs, attitudes and experiences of people in media.” The collaboration involved 22 different universities with journalism or communication programs and analyzed responses from 10,482 people — a hefty sample of people trained for media jobs.
Today we are making the data set available to researchers who wish to delve further into survey responses and subsets in ways the initial report — and subsequent studies on fact-checking and managers — did not. The enormous size of the data set, more than 10,000 communications and journalism graduates, makes it a rich vein for exploring the landscape of journalism education by age, gender, ethnicity and discipline. The public data set fully protects the anonymity of individual respondents and schools, as promised as part of the original partnership.
Though the survey was published in 2015, it has far reaching implications about how little journalism education has changed over time and how far it and how quickly it needs to change now.
Questions within the dataset include, among others:
- What do you think are the biggest challenges facing journalism in general today? Asked a year before “fake news” became vernacular, fully 57 percent said “the flood of opinion and false information on the Internet.”
- Which of the following have you personally experienced at work at least once within the past five years? Many people, for instance, said they had extra duties assigned (63 percent), though few said they received pay raises (46 percent). There is an opportunity to analyze this question on variables such as education, gender or ethnicity.
- Thinking of media in general, do you think on balance that the journalism produced today has improved in quality, declined in quality or is about the same as it was 5 years ago? Overall, most people thought the field had declined in quality (66 percent), though most people in a separate question said their own work had gotten better. An investigation into the characteristics of the optimists may yield interesting results.
- How effective would you say your school was at teaching the following skills that go beyond traditional reporting and writing? While graduates across the generations generally viewed their education favorably when it came to traditional skills, we didn’t unpack all of what the data had to say about recent graduates. For example: Just 4 percent of those who graduated from communication and journalism programs in the last 10 years rank the training they received in HTML highly, nearly the same as those who graduated 10 to 20 years ago.
- How many semesters did you spend working at student–run media organizations or agencies? We looked at whether people participated in student media, but didn’t correlate that to other factors probed in the survey (e.g. how long it took for people to find a job after graduation).
Some potential uses may include:
- Reference for curriculum improvement. The surveys asked questions about effectiveness of their education as well as what skills they said were most important today. The results may prove a reference point for evaluating school initiatives.
- Teaching data analysis in j-school classrooms. Data analysis continues to play an increasing role in news organizations, both in editorial as well as business strategy. Educators might find this dataset an interesting sample while teaching relevant skills.
- General understanding of journalists’ training and education needs. E.g., nonprofit organizations or funders that support journalism causes may find it a useful snapshot into what people in media say is important to them and what efforts may resonate.
The 22-school collaboration was a large effort to coordinate for the American Press Institute, though it yielded valuable information for the field.