Journalism Generation Gap

by - April 10, 2014

In my short tenure in this business, I have worked with a lot of people. And the longer I stay in one place (which is seeming more and more likely), the bigger the generation gap becomes. I feel like I'm way too young to be using that phrase, but it's very true.

The face of journalism is changing. I mean, the faces of journalism are literally changing. The reporters and anchors many of us grew up knowing are leaving the business and being replaced with fresh, young faces. In some markets, like the one I work in, that changeover happens every few years.

Since starting my career, the journalists I've worked with have spanned the spectrum of experience. I've worked with veteran reporters, those fresh out of college and those who are just starting to find their footing.

Over the past 5 years, the thing that sticks out to me the most is just how young the new generations seem, not just in age but also in spirit. Maybe it's because when I got my start in this business, I was surrounded by those who had found their footing. Not really veterans, but several years out of college and dedicated as heck. I'd like to think that I learned from some of the best people in this business (their next moves lend some validity to that point), and now it's my job to pass that knowledge on to the next generations.

If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times: my station is a great place to get your start in this business. We're considered small market, but we operate like a much larger one. We're the number one station in our area, but we don't pride ourselves on being first; we'd rather be right the first time. With that being said, we expect a lot from our staff, regardless of if they're one week or two years into the job.

Because we do typically have a much-younger reporter and producer base, mistakes are made. In this current 24-hour news cycle we operate in, those mistakes are much more noticeable and our audiences are less forgiving.

Between updating websites and social media constantly before the show even airs, I have to wonder - do these new kids not have as much time to learn and develop the skills they need to not make those mistakes? Or maybe it's more basic than that. Maybe schools haven't updated their teaching methods to match the current state of the news world. It could be even deeper than that. It could be that the business is being inundated with more and more of those members of the so-called "entitled generation" who don't truly know what it means to work. And at my station there's always this to consider - some are so focused on getting to the next gig, they can't focus on their current one.

Whatever the underlying factor, the journalism generation gap is very real and getting more pronounced with each passing year as more of the faces we've come to trust and rely on for news hang up their microphones. With them goes the experience and know-how that makes many newsrooms across the nation credible. They're slowly being replaced with inexperienced faces that viewers don't relate to or trust, regardless of their ability or credibility.

Pretty soon that generation gap won't exist anymore, simply because all the old timers will have retired. We'll be an industry made up of journalists with minimal to middle-of-the-road experience, which has me wondering - will our audiences be tolerant of our new-found learning curve?

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  1. Welcome to the old timers club, Ashton! When you and I first started following each other in 2008 or 2009 you were one of those young people just starting out in the business. Now you come across like the wise, seasoned veteran that you are (or are fast becoming).

    With so many alternative sources available it is unclear to me what percentage of today's young people actually watch television news. Watching TV news and reading the daily newspaper are ingrained habits adopted long ago by people of my generation and older.

    The age, gender and race of a newscaster are not important to me. The only thing I care about is that they convey the impression that they did their homework and are prepared, that they read over the copy a few times before air time to avoid "kicking it around," that they use proper grammar and that they remain considerate of my time by keeping transitional chit chat to a minimum. However, these requirements might be much more important to older viewers like me than they are to younger viewers whose standards are relaxed.

    1. Our demographics start with middle-aged women, but our biggest demographic is 50+. We do have a magazine-style show that attracts younger viewers but it rarely contains any local news.

  2. This used to not be the case. Now I see journalists right out of college getting jobs that took me 3-4 years to get. I paid my dues and it seems that doesn't happen much anymore. Everyone is so busy getting to the top they forget how much they can learn from the bottom

    1. "Everyone is so busy getting to the top they forget how much they can learn from the bottom." -- That is so true. I think that's probably the biggest issue: everyone thinks they deserve the top spot, even if they haven't earned it.