The Media Today

Q&A: Mandy Hofmockel on the story of the journalism jobs market

April 17, 2024
Image: Adobe Stock file # 290050085

Mandy Hofmockel remembers looking for a job early in her journalism career. She applied to over a hundred openings at organizations across the country; after months of intense searching, she got three interviews, and finally landed a position. She felt she had to do something with the wealth of information that she had garnered throughout the process. So she decided to start a weekly newsletter to aggregate the latest openings and disseminate the tips that she picked up along the way. She called the newsletter Journalism jobs and a photo of my dog. (She always includes photos of her dog, Maggie, to lighten the mood.) 

As the newsletter grew, Hofmockel added interviews with newsroom recruiters and other industry professionals to impart career advice. Job-aggregation websites and newsletters like hers provide essential assistance to media workers, who, due to the tumult in their industry, are often in a constant state of looking for their next gig. Hofmockel’s newsletter has allowed her to take an intimate look at the side of the media industry people want, ideally, to spend the least amount of time with. “There’s a story being told through companies’ job boards and the needs of the community,” she told me. 

Last week, I spoke with Hofmockel, who also works at Hearst as an audience engagement editor, about the evolutions of the journalism industry that she’s observed in producing her newsletter, what trends are afoot in hiring, and how the job-application process has changed for the better. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

FM: When you started your newsletter, were you aggregating job listings manually or crowdsourcing? How did it work? And how does it work now? 

MH: It was very much a manual process, and it’s really evolved. Some of the different tools that I’ve used have changed over time. First, I was looking at social media. I used to crawl through hashtags on X, formerly known as Twitter; a lot of journalists used that platform heavily for many years. Now I’m spending a lot more time on LinkedIn, poring over roles that my connections are sharing and exploring hashtags there too. That’s been really fruitful in recent months. I look at a lot of different journalism organizations, job boards. I get multiple pitches a week from people at various newsrooms: sometimes it’s full-time jobs; sometimes it’s fellowships. It could be for-profit, nonprofit; emerging newsrooms, established ones.

What have you noticed about the types of jobs that are being listed now within journalism? Are you seeing more reporting positions or different types of roles emerging?

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There are noticeable cycles in the industry. For example, during the pandemic, you saw the job market really contract at different points, and then it would expand again. I think in the past couple years, I’ve seen more demand for data reporters. Last year into this year, I think you’ve seen more political reporters as the presidential election cycle ramped up—elections reporters; I think I even saw a couple democracy reporters out there as well. We’re starting to see more and more AI positions emerging in newsrooms. There’s not a plethora of them at present, but it starts at the big-market level with some of these positions, and then they start to become a little more common throughout the industry.

I’ll see upticks at times, especially in regions like, say, Texas or Missouri. That’s been exciting, to see that a bunch of local publications are hiring. Yes, there are the coasts, and they have a large portion of the jobs, but journalists live and work across the country, and it’s important to reflect that. There’s a story being told through companies’ job boards and the needs of the community.  

What trends have you noticed with employers and job requirements?

Anecdotally, I’ve been hearing from more new nonprofits that are either emerging or I hadn’t heard of before. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a deluge or anything, but it’s exciting to see small, measured, really interesting impacts in the market. Additionally, I would say nonprofits are a little more on the cutting edge with what they do with the application process at times. They might share a little bit more about the benefits and get out in front of the culture of the newsroom, or do other things like including salary information in their listings.

When it comes to salary transparency in particular, there are laws in multiple states [requiring salary disclosure on job applications]. So you’ve got a number of employers who are meeting their legal requirements. But I think there’s a little bit of a knock-on effect there with newsrooms seeing, like, Hey, this is how things are moving; this is how the industry is going. It’s not everywhere yet when it comes to salary transparency, but there has been a measurable uptick. That information can help people make determinations or just understand a little bit better what’s going on.

The titles and language evolve as the needs of readers and technology and everything else evolves. If someone used to have a job title of “copy editor,” they may be called “multi-platform editor” now. If you’re just starting out, or even if you’ve been in the industry for a little while, there’s no standard for someone doing the same job in one newsroom versus another. That’s something that can also be a little bit tricky for people to navigate.

Have you noticed any changes in what qualifications are now being listed on these job applications, like having a four-year degree?

Some positions require a certain amount of experience, but more and more, especially in the nonprofit space and others, you might see them called “preferred qualifications.” You might see these nice explanations about how employers know that not everyone is going to tick every box, but if you think you meet a number of the criteria, they are still encouraging people to apply. That is language that I think I’ve seen more in the industry.

What kind of feedback are you getting from your audience, especially in these times of mass layoffs? I’m especially curious if people are giving you feedback on journalism-adjacent jobs—if you’re noticing people trying to segue out of the industry at all.

One way I get feedback is through unsubscribes from my newsletter. There’s positive unsubscribes and then there’s ones that are a little bit tougher, but when someone unsubscribes from the paid version of my newsletter, and they’re like, I got a job, that’s just so wonderful. I do get feedback like, Hey, I’m moving out of journalism. I haven’t necessarily seen a big jump in that, but I do get that feedback on a regular basis. 

I keep an eye out for things that would be useful for folks [in those instances], like freelancing. There’s a lot of freelancing opportunities for people if that’s something that they’d do to keep a toe in journalism, or even to transition out of it. There’s a lot of freelancing opportunities that are journalism-adjacent and you can learn new skills. I try to keep [the newsletter] journalism-centric, but there’s plenty of people who move back and forth between journalism and journalism-adjacent jobs. 

Other notable stories:

  • Fallout continues from an essay that Uri Berliner, a senior editor at NPR, wrote last week for the Free Press slamming the broadcaster for moving to the left and abandoning curiosity and “viewpoint diversity” in its coverage. NPR’s David Folkenflik reports that bosses have suspended Berliner for five days without pay, on the grounds that he failed to secure their approval before publishing; Folkenflik also reports that NPR will institute monthly meetings to review its coverage going forward. Meanwhile, Berliner’s NPR colleague Steve Inskeep pointed out the many factual errors in the essay in a post on Substack, describing the essay as a whole as “a mirror image of his critique of NPR.” And Slate’s Alicia Montgomery, a former NPR staffer, writes that the broadcaster is indeed “a mess”—but for very different reasons from those cited by Berliner.
  • The far-right One America News Network (OAN) moved to settle a defamation suit brought against it by Smartmatic, a voting-tech company, over its coverage of Trump’s 2020 election lies. According to CNN’s Marshall Cohen and Oliver Darcy, the settlement, the details of which are confidential, came as depositions in the case were due to take place, including of Robert Herring, OAN’s owner, and his son Charles, the network’s president. (As part of the suit, Smartmatic had claimed that the Herrings may have illegally obtained passwords belonging to its employees, as Cohen previously reported; OAN has denied this.) Smartmatic is still suing Fox News and Newsmax in similar cases, while OAN faces a suit brought by another company, Dominion Voting Systems. 
  • And the publishing group Hachette—owned since last year by the family company of Vincent Bolloré, a mogul who has been accused of dragging France’s media landscape to the right—formally fired Isabelle Saporta as the head of Fayard, a leading Hachette brand, citing “strategic differences.” As we noted recently in this newsletter, Saporta had reportedly refused to share the Fayard brand with a newly arrived editor known for her work with right-wing authors, including the former presidential candidate Éric Zemmour.  

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Feven Merid is CJR’s staff writer and Senior Delacorte Fellow.