Since being founded in 2019 MVJ has built a vibrant organization of current, former, and aspiring veteran-journalists with an immense variety of backgrounds and skill sets. As of May 20, 2020 MVJ has over 267 members across the world, from all kinds of military backgrounds, and in a variety of stages in their journalism careers. This is up significantly just this year from 189 members on February 18, 2020.
I. Backgrounds and Experiences of MVJ Members
MVJ members have a significant amount of military experience with an average years of service of 10.31 years. While MVJ members primarily come from an active duty background, numbering 68.54% or 183 out of 267 members, significant amounts come from the reserves (4.49%), National Guard (6.37%), and multiple components (20.60%).
In terms of branch MVJ members vary widely and MVJ is proud to have a membership representing a cross-section of our nation’s armed forces. 102 (38.20%) members come from the Army, 48 (17.98%) from the Navy, 51 (19.10%) from the Marine Corps, 45 (16.85%) from the Air Force, 1 (0.37%) from the Coast Guard, and 19 (7.12%) with multiple branches of service.
Beyond military experience MVJ members also demonstrated extensive geographic diversity. While large portions of MVJ members come from the media hotbeds of New York (38 / 14.23%), California (30 / 11.24%), and the DC-area (35 / 13.11%), many members also come generally from the South (106 / 39.70%), Northeast (55 / 20.60%), Midwest (25 / 9.36%), and the West (69 / 25.84%).
MVJ members also showed themselves to be in very different stages of their journalism careers. 102 (38.20%) considered themselves aspiring journalists as compared to 40 (14.98%) as staff journalists, 80 (29.96%) as freelance journalists, and 49 (18.35%) as journalism students.
MVJ has also benefited from a multi-vantage distribution and awareness network as shown by how MVJ members have come to hear about the organization. 121 (47.83%) heard about MVJ through social media, 61 (24.11%) from another person, 34 (13.44%) from publications, and 13 (5.14%) from veterans organizations.
II. MVJ Membership Survey Results
In early January Military Veterans in Journalism (MVJ) reached out to its members to find out the kind of support, training, resources, and opportunities that those with a service connection are looking for in journalism and media. The results are in and MVJ members sent the message loud and clear:
1. MVJ Members Want Training In Technology Tools.
Those choosing “Very Relevant” or “Relevant” overwhelmed those choosing “Average,” “Irrelevant,” and “Very Irrelevant” in expressing interest in training on podcast production (91.4% “Very Relevant” or “Relevant”), video journalism (94.3%), data analysis (68.6%), and social media analysis (88.6%). A lot of MVJ members found themselves interested in gaining these skills, with those saying they had a “Little Experience” or “Not Experienced” in them, as compared to “Some Experience” or “Very Experienced,” standing out in podcast production (85.7% “Little Experience” or “Not Experienced”), video journalism (91%), data analysis (77.1%), and social media analysis (51.4%).
Within podcast production MVJ members were most interested in training their content creation skills (40%) and production skills (34.3%) and least interested in outreach/marketing and developing a theme. Podcasts have soared in popularity in the past decade and their growth momentum appears to not be slowing down. Podcasts can be listened to flexibly, whether in a car or in a waiting room without too much preparation and easy to pause. Podcasts are also easy to set up with lots of production, hosting, and distribution services out there for any media company – or even individual(s) – to quickly get their podcast series up and running.
In video journalism MVJ members were most interested in writing for video (51.4%) and how to operate equipment (31.4%) and least interested in video editing for journalism (14.3%). Video journalism has also changed dramatically in recent years as the ease of viewing and creating videos has increased. No longer is video journalism confined to those with an expensive camera and who need a television company to distribute their product. Nowadays anyone can upload a video to YouTube with minimal editing roadblocks or even instantly, or live, to outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more. Video journalism previously required expensive resources and extensive institutional support – today anyone can get materials up and out there.
Data analysis was much more varied, with members most interested in Intro to Stata (31.4%) and writing a report based off statistics (37.1%) and least interested in subjects such as Excel, Intro to R, and otherwise.
These results from MVJ members regarding data analysis mimic broader trends in journalism. Journalism increasingly demands understanding and utilizing data as our world more and more revolves around the use of heavy-duty statistics in fields such as business, financial markets, consumer activities, elections, polling, and government. Gone are the days of creating solid stories without the backing of information, particularly given the power and prevalence of data science and computing in now nearly every industry and aspect of life. Some of the most groundbreaking stories and public discussions of recent times have been fueled by revelations from data, whether in elections and public policy, the #MeToo movement, or even climate change like The New York Times’ “How Much Hotter Is Your Hometown Than When You Were Born?” interactive tool.
2. MVJ Members Want To Learn The Art and Science of Journalism.
Yet there is more to journalism than only the technical skills, as useful as they are. Journalism also requires critical and strategic thinking, the creativity to be able to unearth information and patch together stories, and the determination to overcome the hurdles inherent in the course of all of that. 80% of MVJ member survey respondents considered training in national security reporting to be “Very Relevant” or “Relevant” to their interests and 97.2% for investigative journalism. MVJ Members also were interested in connecting with those who are stakeholders or participants in the industry, with 88.6% considering networking to be “Very Relevant” or “Relevant” and 42.9% saying they had “Little Experience” or were “Not Experienced.”
National security is, as always, a major topic of public interest and thus journalist efforts. National security reporting can also be particularly complicated due to the immense array of factors affecting events, how rapidly events and circumstances can morph, and how much information is non-public and difficult to decipher or account for. Within national security reporting members had diverse interests, with developing knowledge on regional disputes (34.3%) and using past military career knowledge in reporting (25.7%) just ahead of developing knowledge of climate change’s implications (20%) and cyber issues (14.3%). Those interested in developing knowledge of terrorism implications was minimal.
Investigative reporting is a broad topic that focuses on unearthing the stories that you may not even know exist. It is not the bread-and-butter reporting on events that are relatively clearly in the public eye but rather finding the bits and pieces that uncover a story of perhaps great public concern but for which either it is difficult to notice generally or for which there are those trying to hide the story. For MVJ members investigative reporting was as split as national security reporting, with training on conducting interviews (37.1%) and open source investigation (22.9%) ahead of database research (17.1%) and FOIA (14.3%). Interest in learning to work with legal documents and in developing stories was minimal.
Networking, as with many professions, is essential but for journalism can particularly be so. Whether you are a journalist for a large media conglomerate or freelance, being able to build connections with sources, colleagues, institutions, and more is not only beneficial for the job but in fact necessary. For networking, MVJ members were roughly evenly split between interview techniques (28.6%), developing an elevator pitch (22.9%), resume development (22.9%), and developing one’s LinkedIn page (20%). “Already Have a Great Deal” and “All of the Above” were minimal.
3. MVJ Members Want Training and Opportunities
MVJ Members were also given the opportunity to simply write what they wanted to see as training or opportunities in journalism and that MVJ might be able to provide. The responses included “Photojournalism,” “Audience Analysis/Engagement,” “Mentorship,” “Safety in Dangerous Environments,” “Narrative or Literary Reporting” and more.
As shown, it is clear that MVJ members are eager to develop their skills to adapt to the modern journalism and media environment. MVJ members want to master both the strategy/tactics of journalism as well as the tools of the profession.
MVJ is grateful for those who participated in the survey! We hope to do our best in providing resources, training, and opportunities to help our fellow veteran brothers and sisters succeed in the journalism world.
MVJ is looking to partner with newsrooms and non-profit organizations to provide trainings on topics like these to our veteran community. Get in touch to discuss collaboration.
Places To Learn More About Coding and Data Visualization:
Journalist’s Toolbox: Data Journalism Tools: https://www.journaliststoolbox.org/category/data-visualization-and-online-tools/
Code School: http://www.codeschool.com
Icon Archive: http://www.iconarchive.com