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Reuters re-thinks its editorial training

Reuters is changing the way it trains journalists to give more importance to on-the-job learning and reduce emphasis on the agency's stand-alone training operation. Starting on 1 January, the training team will be smaller.

Editor-in-chief Stephen Adler, in a note to editorial managers that linked future training to changes in the news industry, tighter budgets and market pressures, said recently that training was hugely important to any news organisation and it continues to have particular resonance at Reuters.

“At the same time, it’s crucial that what, and how, we learn keeps up with how Reuters and our industry are evolving. We have to ensure that new and long-tenured staffers alike are proficient in basic skills and procedures, as well as in newer areas such as social media, data journalism, and use of mobile technology tools. And we have to do so within the tighter budgets that we all face, as market pressures affecting our industry continue to constrain our spending.

“In general, I believe that the most effective learning happens on the job - when it is integrated into what we do day-to-day - and that most journalists, myself included, have learned most of what we know about the craft from supervisors and, especially, our peers. Formal training has its place and will continue. More focused efforts to leverage the knowledge and skill of our news professionals to teach each other will intensify. Overall, I believe this will make us stronger, though I know some will regret the reduced emphasis on the stand-alone training operation.”

Adler said that effective January 2015, learning managers in each region will report directly to regional editors instead of into a central training organisation. This new approach will still require a dedicated training team, though one that is smaller than it is today. The training teams, working with the regional editors, editors-in-charge and bureau chiefs, will concentrate on understanding the greatest skills gaps and provide formal training where it will have the biggest impact.

“Under this new approach, all of us will need to think differently about developing our own skills and those of people in our bureaus and teams. This means, in particular, that managers will need to treat training and development as key elements of their role. I’ve found that most good managers get much of their job satisfaction from helping their staffs get better and advance in their careers, so I trust that our emphasis on staff development as a key part of a manager’s responsibilities will be a good thing for managers, as well as for their teams.”

Adler said he had been a big advocate of identifying “black belts” on editorial teams - “people who are especially strong at some element of what we do, whether it is developing sources, or analyzing data, or covering war zones, or snapping financial results - and calling on these journalists to help teach their skills to others. The new system will provide us with some mechanisms for engaging these talented people more fully in the learning effort world-wide.”

He added: “I’m counting on you, as leaders, to seize the challenge of enhancing your effectiveness as teachers and trainers, and enlisting the black belts in your midst to help out. I will also need you to help your teams understand the changes and recognize that training still remains a high priority at Reuters. I am confident that, as the changes take effect, people will discover for themselves the benefits of the new approach.”

Adler made no mention of those presently involved in editorial training. Thomson Reuters’ head of editorial learning is Anne Senior, recruited in 1987 as a graduate trainee journalist and later a correspondent and editor in London, Tokyo and Singapore. In Singapore, Sebastian Tong is financial specialist training editor, Asia. He leads global training on Reuters data tools and technology for all Reuters journalists.

A company spokesman contacted by The Baron about departures from the training operation would not discuss individual members of staff. He gave this statement: “Reuters is deeply committed to effectively training and developing our staff and evolving our training program to best meet their needs. We will continue to recruit trainees through the Reuters Journalism Program.” ■