A closer look at professionalism, visible minorities and virtuous storytelling.
By Sukh Toor
The face of the newsroom is changing as an excessively labelled group of young people enter the workplace and bring wave of changes. By 2040 all workplaces will be flooded with millennials; these young adults have different qualities and goals with alternative looks featuring tattoos and piercings. With them they will bring change and this can affect professionalism, news and the number of minorities.
Will audiences be ready to trust their news with this new generation?
“There’s a part of me saying dress-wise they [T.V. anchors] might be the last ones to change with the lawyers,” says management consultant Peter Barron Stark, who wrote a piece titled The New Definition of Professionalism. It addresses appearance qualities such as piercings and tattoos that the younger generations choose.
“I’m not going to equate professionalism to your dress,” says the veteran management consultant.
What he does look at is accountability, quality of service, whether or not the individual do what they say they will and if they go out of their way to make things right; this encompasses how Stark approaches professionalism.
Journalists and other employees continue to enter organizations and will eventually take on leadership positions, and that’s what leads the culture of the organization, says Stark.
Toronto Star crime reporter, Wendy Gillis has been with the publication since 2010. Her sources often are civilians and courtroom officials.
“When I’m in the news room it doesn’t matter too much what I wear, but in terms of if I’m going to court or a tribunal I tend to dress more professionally,” she says.
Although peers aren’t judging appearance is still important for first impressions on sources. Even so, Stark says by 2020 the millennials are going to be half of the work force and his feeling is that a more relaxed wardrobe will become more common, says owner of Peter Barron Stark Companies.
Vice editor Justin Ling says journalists shouldn’t be concerned about appearance.
“If you’re meeting a veteran at a coffee shop jeans and t-shirt is fine. I think getting wrapped up in what you’re wearing isn’t all that useful.”
Ling adds that obviously a publication would want their journalists to look approachable and clean, but it’s a small priority as the story should take center-stage.
Ling says professionalism, especially dress; falls low compared to the many things journalists have on their plate. Fake news is becoming a term that up and coming millennial journalists may be concerned about as it gains traction on social media. Allegations from American President Donald Trump accuses various media organizations of biased reporting.
Many say the bigger problem for the millennials working alongside earlier generations will be navigating through the difference in work ethic.
According to the 2009 book Ties to Tattoos: Turning Generational Differences Into a Competitive Advantage, “Where Boomers want personal gratification, Millennials want morality. Where Millennials strive for civic duty, Xers strive for self-reliance.”
“There are cases of journalists making stuff up, cases of journalists plagiarising , fabricating or laundering quotes. Those are problems, they’re not new, and they’re not special. We avoid them by making sure our journalists are resourced and capable of separating facts from fiction,” says Ling.
Gillis agrees that it’s important for all journalists not to forget key skills they need to produce trustworthy news.
For journalists, she says, it’s important to tell the truth from nonsense and know how to check facts. “Verifying information: I don’t think that has changed, it’s been there since the beginning of time I think.”
Another change Millennials will bring to news organziations is a diversity in gender and ethnicity.
The numbers of working-women have grown and continue to increase. Gender equality may be on the horizon, but what about minority faces in the newsroom? The Radio Television Digital News Association minority numbers are still low in the media.
The priority for the next generation of reporters should be embracing diversity and upholding the tenets of the profession.
“News rooms are certainly trying to invest a little bit more into ensuring that a newsroom reflects broader population. I don’t think appearance is something that matters beyond ensuring we have diverse staff,” says Gillis.
VICE on the other hand is expected to be diverse as the set standards for acceptance with the creative news they present. In line with Ling, who says diverse staff is a definite priority for everyone.
“Well verified, well researched, a diversity of opinions, if it’s necessary. Basically, no bias and one-sidedness…” says Gillis.
Millennials have more aptitude in terms of research, general social media and maybe coding website development because of the technology era that they grew up in, says Ling. This can be an asset to the Millennial group who outnumber the baby boomers.