ARE NEWSPAPERS LOOKING FOR SUPERHEROES?
DR. SARPHAN UZUNOĞLU & VERDA UYAR
The media industry has been going through significant changes for some time now and Turkey is no exception to this. Emerging information and communications technologies are not only reshaping the composition of the sector but are also affecting the employment dynamics within. What we are witnessing is a double-sided alternation: while some jobs are disappearing in certain sections of the media landscape, others have grown in employment in recent years. Given such substantial changes in the industry, training for media professionals and students have been more important than ever in order to become competent with the new skills the sector demands. New job openings are limited in number due to staff reductions in the context of institutional restructuring and are rather competitive with multi-skill requirements that transcend conventional media practices, while those graduating from related areas and that are seeking for employment in the industry are increasing every year. Part-time and contract-based employment for media workers is becoming increasingly common, posing yet another labor market challenge.
Recent debates around the future of news profession have merely focused on this narrative of technological changes bringing about a change while a growing body of literature is also taking into account the economic, social and political contexts in which these changes are occuring. Drawing from this line of thinking, we aim to provide an additional perspective to the existing debates on the particular experience of Turkey’s media environment by analysing the current trends and changes in the journalistic occupation from the viewpoint of different stakeholders in the industry. As figures show, among all graduates those with a journalism and information degrees in Turkey have the second highest unemployment rate, whereas media institutions of varying scales endure to employ new workers for a diverse range of tasks. Such imbalance between the number of young people interested in the industry and the capacity to take on new workers has often triggered further discussions on quality of the journalistic education in Turkey, centered on the excessive number of communication faculties and the inability of the present curricula to prepare young professionals to navigate their way through the ever-changing professional world.
Informed by a range of theoretical and practical perspectives, in order to understand the appearing roles and needs in Turkey’s media industry and the response provided by the institutions, we then have examined the set of skills and competencies mentioned as required in active job announcements. Besides, we conducted semi-structured interviews with employers and professionals of different media institutions where we discussed in-depth their employment strategies and policies. Here are some of our main findings from the study:
- Loyalty to publication policies is a must. Compliance with the institutional publication policy seems like an obligation for all the organizations we’ve talked to. Loyalty to those policies have been underlined both in the job ads and the interviews.
- Employees in a certain workplace are changing quite frequently. Despite the pandemic and the economic crisis that the industry is facing, numerous recruitments have been made over the last year, with several positions remaining unfilled. However, the reason for so seems like to do more with the precarious environment in the industry and low credence to the institutions than the availability of new employment opportunities.
- Interest in popular job positions within global media is low. Interest in roles related to new-generation sustainability strategies such as subscription editor, crowdfunding editor, and fund coordinator are low.
- The new-generation of media institutions are more prone to follow global trends. Globally trending new roles are preferred relatively more by new-generation newsrooms and fact-checking platforms compared to conventional media outlets. Nevertheless, those that follow the global trends constitute a very small fraction of the entire industry.
- There is no consensus among journalists on whether a human resources department in the media industry is necessary or not. As per the journalists, such departments are unable to grasp the daily news workflow. A few of the representatives opine that such a department will make things easier, yet the final process should be left for the journalists to handle.
- People are puzzled when it comes to communications education. Only slightly more than half of the respondents believe that communication training procures an advantage in the recruitment process. It is possible to see routine requirements such as “graduated from relevant faculties of the universities” or namely from departments such as journalism, new media, radio-tv, media and communications listed in the ads prepated mostly by the human resources units.
- There is a rather positive attitude towards in-house and external capacity building programs. Perception of internal and external capacity building activities are generally positive. Numerous institutional representatives indicated that they are benefiting from the in-house training, while further directing their employees to benefit as well from those organized by others.
- A considerable majority of the open job positions are full-time. There are only a few ads for part-time positions. Public announcements for new positions are launched more often by organizations that are institutionalized.
- Knowledge of certain visual/video editing softwares and tools are becoming increasingly advantageous. Even if some journalists liken their newsrooms to a school, it is clear from the job ads and covetly from the interviewees’ responses that editing softwares give an upper hand.