Business editors: Most journalism graduates unprepared to cover business, economics
More than half of business editors surveyed find graduating journalism students unprepared to cover business news, according to research from a Missouri State University professor published in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator.
The survey queried more than 240 business editors across the country, and received 73 responses. Of those that responded, 50.8 percent said that graduating seniors were “moderately unprepared” while another 6.2 percent said they were “extremely unprepared.”
The results, however, are better than those from a similar survey a decade earlier. When a similar survey was done in 2002, 64 percent said students were “moderately unprepared” while 16.1 percent responded that they were “extremely unprepared.”
The research also found that more than three out of every five business editors would be willing to pay a higher salary for a business reporter right out of journalism school if he or she had training in accounting or financial reporting. That is in line with what was found in the 2002 survey.
In 2002, about tone third said they would pay $501 to $1,000 more, but that number rose to 41.7 percent in 2012.
The research was done by Mary Jane Pardue, a journalism professor at Missouri State who is also on the board of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. It was published in the Spring 2014 issue of Journalism and Mass Communication Educator.
Pardue wrote that the study “shows that there is a continuing need for better-training business journalists and in some cases a willingness on the part of editors to pay more for journalists with special skills.”
She added that the research presents a question to journalism schools: Why haven’t they improved training for students to understand numbers?
“While few journalism students select business reporting as an area of focus, perhaps because of their ‘fear’ of using numbers, it can be argued that every beat a journalist covers has a business, financial, or economic component,” concluded Pardue. “Hence the call comes again for academia to recognize that there continues to be profound inadequacy in journalism education at a time when learning basics such as handling numbers in a story is more critical than ever.”