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THE DIGITALISING OF THE MEDIA.

NEW COMPETENCES, POLYVALENCE AND


PROFESSIONAL SKILLS IN CATALAN JOURNALISM.

Carlos Scolari (UVic)


Héctor Navarro (UVic)
Hugo Pardo (UVic)
Josep L. Micó (UVic – URL)
Ignasi Coll (UVic)

ABSTRACT
This work forms part of a series of investigations that set out to analyse the
consequences of the processes of digitalisation in the communication media in
Catalonia (Spain). In this case, the paper deals with the transformations that have
affected the role of the journalist, especially the taking on of new tasks and functions.
Following an introduction that describes the theoretical and methodological framework
for the research, the article describes the main trends observed within Catalan radio
and television companies, news agencies and online media. The article also presents a
series of reflections on polyvalence, reskilling and other processes that affect
information professionals. Finally, a classification is proposed of the forms of
journalistic polyvalence in the information media.

INTRODUCTION
This article is the result of a one-year research project undertaken by the Grup de
Recerca d’Interaccions Digitals (the Digital Interaction Research Group) of the
Department of Digital Communication of the University of Vic for the Consell de
l’Audiovisual de Catalunya (the Audiovisual Council of Catalonia). The research is part
of a line of work that began in 2003 with the project Comunicadores Digitales (Digital
Communicators) for the ICOD Network - part of the Alfa Programme of the European
Union - and is continuing in 2006 with another study, as yet unfinished, that focuses
on the local printed media, for the Associació Catalana de Premsa Comarcal (the
Catalan Local Press Association). Beyond the specificity of each of these projects, the
overall aim of these projects might be defined briefly: the aim is to analyse the
consequences of the processes of digitalisation within the communication media.
1. THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS
While the study of the cultural industries has a long tradition in the Communication
Sciences, the founding text by Adorno and Horkheimer (1979) dating from 1947,
research into the media workforce took some years to appear. Having concentrated
for several decades on the content and effect of the media, it was not until the late
1960s that studies began to appear that dealt with the productive routines and
professional roles of the communicators themselves (Wolf, 1985).

1.1. Political economy of communication and culture


It was English researchers from the field of Cultural Studies who picked up on the
Frankfurt tradition, stripping it of its apocalyptic connotations and using it as a
theoretical basis for the development of what became known as The Political Economy
of Communication and Culture (Golding & Murdock, 1992, 1997). Within this
theoretical framework, the 1970s saw the beginning of the study of the productive
processes and the workforce of the English press. Professionals working in radio and
television remained relatively marginal to these earliest studies, though media such as
the BBC slowly began to feature on the research agenda (Kumar, 1981; Elliot, 1981).
With regard to the relationship between information professionals and the successive
technologies that were introduced into their productive sphere, it might be said that
the journalistic profession has been marked by an apparently infinite process that
involves an almost constant redefining of specialities and sub-professions. Each
technical innovation - telegraph, typewriter, radiotelegraphy – has brought tensions in
its wake and acted as a catalyst for the appearance of a new way of doing journalism
(Smith, 1981). In this sense, we might say that reprofessionalisation – understood as
the undertaking of new tasks – has been a permanent and ongoing process.
In the second half of the 19th century, with the spread of rotary presses and steam
engines the printing production processes underwent enormous change, just as
happened with the arrival of electronic technology in the 20th century. The spread and
popularising of the World Wide Web and the digitalisation of information production
processes, together with other social, economic and cultural transformations, have led
to a series of changes in the profile and competences that the information professional
has had to take on board. At present, the working routine of the journalist revolves
totally around their computer and the World Wide Web. Journalists “spend most of
their time in the newsroom in front of their computer for research and reporting and
rarely leave the editorial floor” (Deuze & Paulussen, 2002: 243). The use of Internet
as a research tool made journalists independent of their newsroom archives.
According to Garrison “many journalists have become avid online researchers. With
the Web, there is less dependence upon other individuals, such as news librarians, to

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conduct background research” (2001: 71). It might even be said that, as in many
other sectors of the economy and society, a knowledge of digital technologies has
become a kind of lingua franca amongst information workers in the 21st century.

1.2. The digitalisation of the news production process


Digitalisation has brought about changes in both the actors who participate in the
cultural industries, and the production processes they employ. The impact has been
particularly felt in the large production units (for example, in the large radio and
television companies), where a Taylorist industrial division of labour existed. Amongst
other things, digitalisation has led to changes in the workplaces, the professional
competences of the workers, and in the quality of the working environment (Rintala
and Soulanen, 2005). When talking of digitalisation we are referring to that process
which can be characterised by the appearance of:
- Text supports based on the binary code (which, unlike traditional supports, allow
the text to be infinitely manipulated without any loss of information).
- Information production and distribution systems based on the binary code
(desktop publishing, non-linear video editing, etc.).
- Exchanges of information through networks that are based on the transmission of
data packages (the conceptual and technological basis of Internet).
- New forms of organising production (company-network) and new logics of
information creation and transmission (peer-to-peer, open-source, etc.).
- Convergence of languages, media and companies.
To these transformations in production should also be added the changes in the
distribution systems and reception processes. In this context, mass communication
becomes fragmented and atomised into millions of situations involving individual
consumption, often via mobile devices and in an asynchronic way. In the last decade,
the spread of new media (like the online editions of newspapers) and forms of
production and consumption of information (such as the weblogs) have ended up
transforming, in a definitive way, the workplaces of journalists brought up in the
culture of the typewriter and teletype.
Apart from the term digitalisation, this article revolves around two other concepts that
should be analysed before we continue: polyvalence and reskilling.

1.3. Polyvalence and Reskilling


With the arrival of digital technologies in newsrooms, journalists have found
themselves obliged to take on new tasks and learn to produce information
simultaneously for different media. This type of convergence of tasks, or polyvalence,

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has taken a central place in the academic and professional discussions about digital
communication. According to Pineda (2005), digitalisation has led to a reclassification
of the tasks and functions of journalists, with new professional profiles appearing. This
researcher argues that information and communication technologies “are opening up
new fields of work for the communicator; though not displacing the traditional fields of
work in the mass media, they are bringing about a redistribution of tasks and a
reclassification of functions” (Pineda 2005: 87). Rintala and Suolanen, on the basis of
the research they carried out in Finland in the period 2001-2002, which picked up on
the line of work previously developed by Slotterøy Johnsen (2004) that dealt with the
situation in Belgium, synthesise these transformations in the profiles of information
professionals as follows:
• Transferral of tasks: the functions previously performed by a particular
professional are now taken on by another, for example, when a radio journalist
takes responsibility for sound editing (Rintala & Suolanen, 2005: 57).
• Fusion of professional roles: activities previously undertaken by two or more
professionals are now carried out by just one, for example, when the traditional
profiles of the television managing editor and the online managing editor end up
being merged into just one figure, that of managing editor (2005: 57-58).
• Increase in workload: the emergence of new media generates new tasks for the
traditional journalist, particularly in the requirement to produce the same piece of
information in different formats and languages (2005: 58).
In short, polyvalence implies that the journalist assumes new functions and tasks,
some of which were previously performed by other professionals.
The adaptation of workers to these technologies and functions is obviously not a
problem that only effects the cultural industry. In the new economy, workers must be
able to retrain themselves so as to acquire new skills, knowledge and ways of thinking
in a business environment that is constantly evolving (Castells, 2001:109). In this
context it is no longer enough for workers to apply a single body of knowledge
throughout their working life: it will be necessary for them to keep up-to-date in order
to overcome the obsolescence of that which was learnt during the initial phase of their
career. According to Slotterøy Johnsen, “a central issue in processes of socio-technical
change at work is what happens to the skills of employees. Sometimes management
is accused of wanting to ‘de-skill’ the workforce in order to increase flexibility and
control. Defenders of change often claim that what is happening is actually an
‘enskilling’ of the employees, which will increase their job satisfaction. In the case of
journalism, new technologies and ways of working can be seen as a challenge to
journalists’ professionalism” (2004: 253). This reskilling affects both workers in the

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traditional media (radio, television, press, etc.) and news agencies – where the staff
were trained in the ‘old’ technologies – and those who have grown up within the
sphere of the new media and digital communication (Kotamraju, 2002).

2. OBJECTIVES AND METHODOLOGY


The main aim of this research was to identify the changes in the professional profile of
journalists following the introduction of digital technology into the newsrooms of
Catalan radio, television and online media. Amongst the specific objectives were:
• To analyse the consequences of digitalisation on the work of journalists in the
Catalan audiovisual and online media.
• To describe the new competences of the journalists.

2.1. Previous studies in Catalonia


This study was undertaken within a context in which, in the last five years, an
increasing number of researchers have examined the relationship between digital
technologies and the journalistic profession within the Spanish and Catalan media. In
this sense, mention must be made of the pioneering work by Armañanzas, Díaz Noci
and Meso (1996), and of early attempts to define the profile of the digital journalist
(Gil, 1999). In terms of the studies dealing with the Catalan reality, the main lines of
research explored to date are as follows:
• Use of Internet as a source of information, or the use of e-mail within the sphere
of work (Luzón Fernández, 2003; Masip, 2003, 2005)
• New production routines and functions of journalists (Domingo, 2005; ICOD
Network, 2006; Micó, 2003, 2005; Soriano, 2004)
• New professional profiles within the world of information (Micó, 2003, 2005)
• Relations between journalists in online and off-line newsrooms within the same
medium (Domingo, 2006).
• Situation of digital journalists (GPD/SPC, 2003).
Unlike other studies that focus on a small number of media in order to analyse their
production dynamic – as in Masip (2005), where three media are studied, or Domingo
(2005, 2006), where four media were analysed – in this research we set out instead to
create a national map that would integrate a series of different media that are
representative of the Catalan panorama.

2.2. Methodology and planning of the study


The media system in Catalonia is made up of a complex web or public and private
companies. Some of these are only present within the Autonomous Community of

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Catalonia, while others are part of Spanish networks. Similarly, there are dozens of
small and medium-sized media scattered across a territory that has a population of 6
million people. This pattern is repeated in radio, television and the news agencies.
With regard to online media, in general these are either satellites of the large printed
media, or else small companies, some of which are funded by public money, but which
despite their size operate with high levels of technology. One publicly funded Catalan
company (CCRTV Interactiva) is seen as one of the most innovative such companies in
Spain in terms of its production of contents for online media.
This research covers 25 media from the Catalan panorama 35 in-depth interviews
were carried out, a number which is not very different from those undertaken in other
similar pieces of research done in this territory (Soriano and Cantón, 2005; Soriano,
2004). The approach is qualitative and is based on unstructured interviews. The
construction of the sample was undertaken bearing in mind a series of variables of
segmentation that allowed us to define the clusters or typologies of participants:
• Professional profile of those interviewed: Editor or Section head, Journalist or
Reporter.
• Media: news agencies, television channels, radio stations and online newspapers.
• Geographical area: in order to ensure a balanced view of the whole territory,
media were chosen from all the four provinces that make up Catalonia (Barcelona,
Girona, Lleida and Tarragona).
• Ownership of the medium: public capital, private capital.
• Age: recently created media, long-established media.
• Size of the media (number of staff): large, medium, small.
The interviews were subjected to content analysis based on the use of a systematic
descriptive procedure. This procedure consisted of three phases: 1. Pre-analysis
(initial reading of the texts, identifying indices, elaborating indicators, establishing
rules for delimitation, categorising and codifying); 2. Analysis of the material
(operations of codifying, breaking down, enumerating); and 3. Treatment of results
and interpretation. The research was undertaken between September 2005 and
September 2006, with the interviews being carried out between January and May
2006.

3. FINDINGS
The technological transformations and the proliferation of new information media are
generating new professional profiles. In the smaller media, these transformations are
making themselves felt, above all, as new competences that information professionals
are expected to assume. In the larger production units, where both resources and

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tasks to be performed are greater, they may bring about both a confluence of
functions in the traditional journalist and the appearance of new autonomous profiles.
In this article we shall be concentrating on the figure of the polyvalent journalist.
The taking on of greater responsibilities and functions by the journalist is not a linear
process nor can it be verified in the same way in all the media. Rather, the degree of
polyvalence that each professional is required to display varies according to the type
of medium, the economic model (public/private), its dimensions or its evolution as a
company. We should, then, analyse the situation in the different media studied.

3.1. Polyvalence of journalists in different information media


3.1.1. News agencies
The news agencies are increasingly opting for a polyvalent professional profile. In the
Agència Catalana de Noticies (ACN), the leading agency whose capillary network of
correspondents covers the whole of Catalonia, the same journalist writes a news story,
obtains and where necessary retouches the photographs before sending them to the
headquarters of the agency and, last but not least, records and edits news and
information in audio format. While this research was being undertaken, ACN
incorporated the use of video: its journalists have now been equipped with digital
cameras and have received training to enable them to integrate this medium into their
information production. “Our reporters” explains one interviewee from this agency “as
well as being able to take photographs, have the means to record sound bites. We
want them to be equipped with a high quality camera that allows them to capture
images”. In this case, the same journalist generates information for different media
and covers diverse events, for example, political, sports or social events. Most of these
professionals work from home (teleworking) and use the digital network to send their
production to the agency headquarters. According to one director, the same polyvalent
philosophy is to be found in the agencies that cover the whole of Spain: “our staff are
almost all journalists, some camera operators and photographers […] Of the 55 people
we have, 8 are camera operators, 3 photographers and the rest are reporters […] It is
the reporter who edits the material […] What we do is ‘clean-up’ the video, since the
final editing is done by the agency’s client (that is, the medium that buys the
material).”
In these agencies, as happens with journalists in the other media who cover local
news, teleworking is becoming more and more common. The reporters work from
home or from the site where the news has taken place, using technical equipment
and software supplied by the company. The equipment with which these agency
journalists go out onto the streets is similar to that used by their colleagues working
for online publications (laptop, editing software, photographic camera, recorder,

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video camera, etc.). To facilitate the management of its news production, the EFE
agency has introduced a kind of online editorial meeting via an instantaneous
messaging system. Using this system, the agency journalists comment on the stories
they are working on, the events that need covering, etc. without having to physically
visit the head office.
Some interviewees described unusual situations of polyvalence, for example, when
journalists are also asked to participate in the day-to-day financial management of
the company using spreadsheets to monitor production costs. In some smaller
agencies polyvalence is not only required of reporters: photographers are also
expected to take on new functions, in some cases even being responsible for writing
the copy. In the case of foreign events, the smallest agencies have no doubts: they
send just one professional who is charged with generating information of all types -
written, audio, photographic and video.
One of the keys to explaining all these changes is digital technology. With lower
levels of investment, more work can be done. In addition, all these functions can be
performed simultaneously and without specialised personnel. However, digitalisation
does not automatically imply that the working environment is better. Complaints
about the increasing instability of work are constant, especially amongst the
journalists interviewed.

3.1.2. Radio
The situation of the journalists working in the large publicly-owned Spanish radio
stations has not changed despite the technological transformations that have taken
place. Rather, the requirement for journalists to assume greater competences has
been concentrated in the privately-owned media and small communication companies.
In the latter, journalists, apart from looking after programme production, gathering
documentation, writing scripts, selecting music, editing the contents and presenting
them to the listeners, in some cases also take responsibility for short publicity
productions. On occasions, the journalists themselves even intervene in creating and
maintaining the radio website. A series of tasks that were previously performed by
production staff (setting up interviews, preparing sound archives, etc.) are now
undertaken by the journalist. In terms of their knowledge of computer tools, in
addition to text software the polyvalent radio journalist is now expected to have a
command of audio editing software (e.g. CoolEdit or similar).
The head of one local radio station preferred to talk of the “self-sufficiency” rather
than the “polyvalence” of his journalists. According to this interviewee, the
technological components of radio are very easy to use, and journalists should not
have any great problem when it comes to learning to operate them. On the other

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hand, the regional head of one of the main Spanish radio networks rejected the idea
of the “all-purpose journalist”, preferring instead the idea of “specialisation in
accordance with the size of the company”.
According to one journalist working on a publicly-owned Catalan radio station “in this
company there has been a qualitative leap forward (…) one important change is the
appearance, within the last ten years, of the figure of the journalist-presenter-
producer, one person who performs all three functions and who, in a studio where
there are no technicians, with a mini-keyboard is able to transmit his/her voice, the
recordings, publicity, etc.” In short, while the large radio stations continue to maintain
a division of labour, in the smaller radios, or those that are most technologically
advanced, the figure of the polyvalent journalist is of growing importance and takes
the triple form of a journalist/presenter/producer.
Despite the technological transformations, certain pre-digitalisation ways of thinking
regarding the circulation of information around the territory are still maintained. For
example, the small local radio stations continue to have a second function as news
agencies, since they provide information to the large communication companies that
are situated in large urban centres.
With regard to the total number of staff, digital technologies have not reduced the
number of radio journalists, but rather have brought about an increase in the
quantity of information produced and handled by them. Some of the editors
interviewed during our research even mentioned the possibility of increasing staff
numbers in the future.

3.1.3. Television
Most of the television companies that took part in this research require their
reporters to be capable of intervening in all the phases of news production. In this
sense, the portability and ease with which digital equipment and non-linear editing
systems can be used are leading to the development of a new profile for the
polyvalent television journalist.
The new companies, or the smaller local televisions, have not had to retrain their staff
since they have always worked in this way. The larger companies, however, have had
to go through a process of transition that has often proved traumatic. In some of
these large production units, such as the publicly-owned Televisión Española (TVE),
owing to their size, the rigidity of their employment contracts or their slowness in
adopting the new technology, these processes of transition are still underway.
Other realities are to be found in the vanguard of the new forms of polyvalence. For
example, in TV3, the large publicly-owned Catalan television station, the figure of the
polyvalent journalist has existed for many years now. In this company, a model for

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many local televisions, the concept of ENG (Electronic News Gathering)is well
consolidated: two journalists alternate the functions of camera operator and reporter,
and even carry out the final editing of the piece to be televised. In order to
undertake the editing, the journalist does not need to move from their workplace at
any time since all the necessary material can be accessed through the interactive
screen. As one journalist put it, here all the reporters edit their stories: “they go out
onto the streets, come back and put the story together themselves. They need to
have basic knowledge of three different types of software that have been adapted to
their needs, but the editing they do themselves”. In this publicly-owned television
company (TV3) the polyvalent journalist is known as an ‘informer’. This figure
performs three tasks: “films the images, edits them and leaves them ready for
broadcasting… (this professional)needs to have, at the very least, knowledge about
how to film, a capacity to write the story, and a knowledge of editing processes. With
time it is possible that they will need to have knowledge of infographics and technical
skills in telecommunications, so that they will be able, at a given moment, to connect
up to a fibre optic network”.
The addition of functions and the increasing speed of production led many of the
journalists who were interviewed to display a highly critical attitude with respect to
the work they do. On the one hand, they recognise that they do not make the best
use of the technology available to them; on the other, they are aware that the pace
at which they have to work affects the quality of the information they produce.
Another peculiarity that came to light in the research is that some large privately-
owned Spanish televisions, such as Atlas/Telecinco, have already digitalised the
production processes at their headquarters in Madrid, but continue to use linear
(analogue) editing technology in their offices in Catalonia. To this should be added
the double function of the Catalan office, which supplies contents to the Madrid
headquarters while also functioning as television news agency for other broadcasters.
This means that the journalists are working with a double register, since they are
simultaneously preparing news stories for two distinct circuits.
As happens in some news agencies, if television journalists work for a group that
owns a printed medium, they will be expected to produce the same news story for
two different media, with two very specific languages. The editors of some media
claimed that, until now, the quality of the two information products has ended up
being unequal: if the written story is good, the audiovisual version is rarely
satisfactory (and vice versa).

3.1.4. Online media


It is in the most recently created media, for example, the new news agencies that

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sprang up alongside the spread of Internet in the 1990s, such as ACN, or the
companies that produce multimedia contents for the web or for mobile phone users,
such as CCRTV Interactiva, that the figure of the polyvalent journalist can most
clearly be seen. Here, the starting point is that the journalist “does everything” and
needs to be capable of producing all kinds of contents (written, photographic, radio,
audiovisual and interactive).
The online media that were set up in the ’90s have evolved swiftly. In general, these
are small structures within which journalists perform different tasks, and polyvalence
is considered to be something that is almost natural. The case of CCRTV Interactiva
might be considered to be paradigmatic. This publicly-owned company, set up as an
offshoot of the Corporació Catalana de Ràdio i Televisió (CCRTV), had a staff, in May
2006, of 62 people (35 multimedia reporters –journalists and graphic reporters, 12
computer technicians and 4 editors, with the remainder being administrative staff).
The work of CCRTV Interactiva is exclusively that of redirecting the contents produced
by the television and radio channels of CCRTV (TV3, Catalunya Radio, etc.) into the
new information channels (web, mobile phones, etc.). In this company, thematic
specialisation (by sections, that is politics, society, international, sports, etc.) is
maintained. Nevertheless, having a command of different languages (radio,
audiovisual, graphic), the use of software (Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop, etc.) and
a basic knowledge of the techniques of programming, all form part of the package of
competences required of these multimedia journalists. To these competences, it is
common to add others, such as a capacity to moderate virtual forums and
communities - meeting spaces for users created and managed by the medium itself.
In other words, the CCRTV Interactiva journalists who work on the political section
only cover this type of news, but they produce the stories in different languages and
formats. One of the editors explained that “we look for people with the most
polyvalent profile possible, we look for people who have skills in using the new
technologies: But once they are in the company it’s necessary, for example, that the
sports coverage is stable and of a consistently high quality. For this reason, we need a
stable team. A reporter can not be doing sports on Mondays, general news on
Tuesdays and on Wednesdays news about young people”.
As mentioned earlier, ACN also favours this type of multimedia profile in its network
of journalists. However, in the case of CCRTV Interactiva, media polyvalence – the
same journalist is capable of producing written, audio, video and interactive
contents, is not accompanied by a thematic polyvalence – rather, each professional
looks after a specific section (sports, politics, culture, etc.).
In the companies where the information that is produced is multimedia and the
journalist is a polyvalent figure, output is normally organised via a Content

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Management System (CMS). This enables the different materials – written texts,
audio, video or photographic materials – to be managed and combined to suit the
characteristics of the channel through which they will be transmitted. Thus,
journalists do not produce information for a particular medium, but rather supply a
database that, subsequently, will provide material suited to the requirements of
television, the web, videotexts, mobile phones, etc.
In the smaller online media analysed during this research the competences required
of journalists are similar: knowledge of software, command of different expressive
languages and information formats, capacity to moderate discussion groups, etc.
Several of the online newspaper editors interviewed coincided in expressing the view
that journalists should be capable of stimulating public participation, and have the
ability to control and channel these user interventions so as to maximise their
effectiveness.
While these online newspapers tend to be connected with other media (city-wide
televisions, local television networks, etc.) the resulting synergy is minimal. Given
that the rhythm and workings of the online media are different from those of a
television or printed medium, the exchanges are normally limited to sharing
information in the editorial meetings each morning. From then on, each medium
pursues its own production process during the rest of the day.
All the online media editors we interviewed insisted on the necessity for the
polyvalent journalist to work as part of a team and in a coordinated way with the rest
of the staff. In this sense, autonomy and polyvalence should not be confused with
the idea of the professional working in isolation.

3.2. Map of competences


The following table presents a summary of the competences of the polyvalent
journalist that have been identified during our research. This professional profile is
becoming consolidated in the online media, in some large information companies and
in the more recently established media. With respect to the small media, journalists
have always performed numerous functions; however, these tasks are now
multiplying while, at the same time, are becoming easier to perform thanks to the
digitalising of the production processes.

News agencies Radio TV Online


WRITTEN
Writing of news x x x x
stories
AUDIO

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Writing scripts x
Audio recording x x x
and editing
Music editing x x
Voice x
GRAPHICS
Infographic x
production
PHOTOGRAPHY
Taking photos x x
Retouching photos x x
VIDEO
Writing scripts x
Video recording x x x
and editing
Voice x
SOFTWARE and
PROGRAMMING
Ofimatics x x x x
Photoshop (or x x
similar)
CoolEdit (or x x
similar)
FinalCut (or x x x
similar)
Dreamweaver x
Flash x
HTML – JAVA x
(basic)
OTHER
COMPETENCES
CMS management x x
Teleworking x x x
Information x x x x
management

3.3. The polyvalent journalist


Throughout this research, the process that most stood out was that of the journalists
taking on functions that had previously been performed by other professionals. What
began as almost a game in the printed media – reporters who went out from their
newspaper equipped with a digital camera - has accelerated to the point that it now
affects all the media. One of the key concepts in this process is what is known as
‘polyvalence’.
While polyvalence is spreading in the printed media, news agencies, radio and
television, the natural working habitat of the multimedia journalist is in the online
interactive media. It is there, in the midst of the digital network, that these
professionals can apply all their multimedia competences to working with information
in different formats and languages. In the new companies whose work involves

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generating contents for the latest channels of communication (web, mobile phones,
etc.) the figure of the polyvalent journalist is crucial.
In the small media the journalist has always been polyvalent: the same professional
was required to produce news for different sections and/or news channels. In the large
media, however, where professional profiles and the division of labour have always
been clearly differentiated, the situation is uneven. In some large television
companies, production teams continue to be formed by the same professionals as in
the pre-digital era.
Another element to have emerged in this research is the increasing distance between
the journalist and the object of the news story. The professional now tends to inform
without leaving the newsroom. One radio reporter told us “I believe the arrival of
digital technology in journalism has been positive in all senses; I don’t believe there
have been any negative factors, quite the opposite. But the thing is – and it’s a
generalised vision of journalism – that we are now producing a more aseptic
journalism, in the sense that we can present a piece of news without having had to be
out there on the ground”. This trend is particularly evident in the online media, where
the normal sources of information are the other traditional media (radio, television,
etc.). Some interviewees consider this growing distance from the site of the news
story to be a step backwards in professional practice, and one that affects the quality
of the information produced.
It should also be pointed out that the effect of the technological transformations is not
limited to modifying the professional profile of journalists and the information
production routines they follow. Relationships between professionals are also being
transformed. For example, the relationship between a journalist and a computer
technician is different today from what it was in the 1970s. Digitalisation, amongst
other things, brings with it a greater dependence on computer technicians. In some
way or another, journalists have always depended on technical figures, from the
expert in photomechanics to sound technicians, but in this new phase, computer
technicians have become transversal figures whose presence is required in all the
large information production units (radio, television, digital media, etc.). One
journalist working on an online newspaper explained that the computer technician has
a central role: “we depend on them much more because anything that goes wrong
involves them”. On the other hand, this closeness between journalists and computer
technicians sooner or later sets in train processes of hybridisation. According to one
interviewee who works in public television, many professional figures “are somewhere
between computer technology and journalism, perhaps with some journalistic
knowledge but leaning more towards computer technology, at least that’s how it’s
been up until now”. As can be appreciated, the range of professional profiles is

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complex and remains open to further mutations and contaminations.
Finally, the concepts of ongoing training and reskilling appeared constantly in the
interviews carried out for this research. In this sense, it is clear that the competences
a communication professional has are unlikely to be enough to see them through their
whole working life: it will always be necessary to update their skills with respect to
both the use of new technologies and the introduction of new working procedures.

3.3.1. Migrant digital journalists: the reskilling path


One aspect has emerged quite clearly during our research: there is a generational gulf
that divides the youngest journalists, for whom polyvalence and the use of digital
technologies is a natural fact (native digital journalists), from those professionals who
were trained in the traditional media and who have had to go through a process of
reskilling (migrant digital journalists).
The journalists who have migrated from the traditional system to the new forms of
information production need to retrain in order to learn how to use the new
technological instruments and to become familiar with the changes in production
dynamics. During our research a difference became apparent between the large
publicly-owned media, such as TVE or the CCRTV, and the rest of the companies. In
the former, training courses to keep staff knowledge levels up-to-date are organised
on a systematic basis. In contrast, in almost all the smaller or privately-owned media,
this type of training activity is practically non-existent and any reskilling that takes
place is normally done by the workers themselves on their own initiative. At the
moment, the predominant method of learning is that of doing so ‘on the job’, when
new equipment is introduced that obliges the journalists to develop new competences.
In some publicly-owned media the transition has been slow and natural: the old
professional figures gradually give way as generational change takes place.
According to one public radio journalist this medium “is very paternalistic; there
are moments when this paternalism is fantastic because it means that all these
processes are lived naturally”. In another publicly-owned medium, one of the
most important paradoxes to be seen is this research is being lived out. While
the Instituto Oficial de Rádio and Televisión (IORTV) lays on very complete
training courses, it is almost impossible for workers at TVE to apply that which
they have been taught owing to the very rigid classification of categories that
still reigns in this company. In the large production structures, the employment
contracts clearly define each professional profile and effectively prevent workers
from doing any tasks that are not listed as being within their competence.
Amongst the editors interviewed, few complaints were made about the capacity of
workers to retrain. However, they did coincide in pointing out that the most reticent

15
at assimilating the changes were the ‘veterans’ of their company; on the other hand,
young university-trained workers swiftly adapt to changes in work organisation.

3.3.2. Native digital journalists: natural polyvalence


During our research, one piece of information emerged, though at present of only
marginal importance in quantitative terms, and often limited to the new online media,
but which is nevertheless indicative of a trend: the media are increasingly staffed by a
new generation of young digital journalists with no analogue past. These professionals
are less than thirty years old, entered the media after the arrival of Internet, and have
only ever known production systems marked by polyvalence, permanent reskilling and
teleworking.
The editor of a local television remarked on the ease with which the new university
graduates (or, even, students of journalism) adapt to these new forms of work.
However, for one our interviewees, a journalist working on an online publication, this
is not particularly remarkable: “[…] I have been a digital journalist since the
beginning. When I finished my university course my first job was outside the world of
communication […] and when I started in the media, first I worked in specialist media,
and then went on to a generalist and local medium like the ‘Diari de Barcelona’, but
always working on Internet. I can say that, if it hadn’t been for Internet, I would
never have got into journalism […] I’ve always worked with Internet”.
One radio journalist working in a publicly-owned company (Catalunya Radio) explains
that, in her workplace, the staff “are quite young. I’m 37 and I’m one of the oldest in
the newsroom, we’re still at an age when it’s relatively easy to adapt to new
technologies. Here we have some people who are ‘super digital’ and evidently they
have no problems”. Whether it is because they are young and it is easier for them to
adapt, or because they already possess the necessary skills, it seems highly likely that
generational change will bring about a consolidation of polyvalent professional profiles
in the information media.

3.4. Some initial reflections on polyvalence


The acquisition of new competences, and the consequent development of polyvalence,
is not a simple process nor a quick one. In general, the media begin by slowly adding
functions to those already borne by the journalist; in some more recently created
companies, such as the online newspapers, the process takes place in a way that is
quicker and almost natural. For example, the journalists working for ACN began
covering stories for the graphic media and the radios (that is, they produced written,
photographic and audio contents) and during 2006 they have also incorporated the
recording and editing of videos.

16
However, the list of functions a journalist performs seems likely to continue to
lengthen. According to one of the ACN editors, they are also looking for “journalists
who are experts in the network, experts in information technology and who can search
for subjects and produce a more globalising journalism based on Internet.” Others
prefer to highlight the processes of selecting information. One interviewee working in
an online medium claims that “here there is a new profile of professional whose task is
to select, I do not say censure, but rather to select messages and contents”. In other
words, the polyvalence of the journalist is not a stable characteristic and it should not
surprise us that tasks an information professional performs, and consequently the
competences required of them, continue to be added to.

3.4.1. Towards a conceptualisation of polyvalence


Throughout this research we have seen how, in some media, the journalist, apart from
producing contents for radio, television, the web or mobile phones, is also expected to
cover different types of events (sports, cultural, political, etc.) or to perform various
functions (news-writing, photography, editing, etc.). For this reason, the concept of
multimedia (as in multimedia journalist) is insufficient to describe this spectrum of
functions and tasks. In the same way that different types of convergence have been
detected, for example, business convergence, communicational convergence, etc.
(Salaverría 2003), we might also argue for the existence of varied forms of
professional polyvalence in the world of journalism. Based on the material gathered
during our research, we would propose the following classification of types of
polyvalence that may affect journalists:
• Technological polyvalence: journalists use instruments (both software and
hardware) that allow them to produce and manage contents on different supports.
For example, journalists are capable of operating programs for text processing,
photographic retouching, non-linear video editing, network and database
management systems, etc.
• Media polyvalence: journalists design and produce contents for some (or all) of
the following media: radio, television, online, etc. For example, having covered an
event, the journalist prepares the whole of the written text (for a printed medium
and/or online newspaper), produces a radio piece and edits a video for televising.
This polyvalence demands a series of technological (knowledge of the technical
means) and semiotic (knowledge of the languages of the different media) skills.
• Thematic polyvalence: journalists produce news for different sections (sports,
politics, culture, etc.). For example, the same journalist might cover anything from
a football match to a political event.

17
The forms that polyvalence takes are not mutually exclusive, since they are presented
as different levels of analysis. A single journalist may be capable of producing contents
for different media and, at the same time, generating contents on politics, culture and
sport (as happens at the ACN or in the online publication ‘Diari de BCN’). Elsewhere,
the journalist might have a mastery of the different media and languages but
specialise in one particular section (for example, sport). This is the current situation of
the journalists working for CCRTV Interactiva.

4. CONCLUSIONS
The main aim of this research was to detect the transformations in the professional
profile of the journalists working in the Catalan audiovisual media that have resulted
from the introduction of digital technology into the newsrooms of news agencies,
radios, televisions and online media. This study is complemented with a description of
the new competences of journalists working in these media and a more profound
conceptualisation of the concept of polyvalence. Below is a presentation of the main
characteristics of digitalisation and journalistic polyvalence in the Catalan news media.

4.1. Digitalisation
Digitalisation is a process that affects the processes of production, editing and
distribution of information. Its principal characteristic, apart from the transformation
of the information support (from paper or electromagnetic tape to bits), is the way in
which it integrates Internet and all its applications and services into the work of the
journalist. The digital network is changing the way of working, but also the way of
understanding journalism.
The digitalisation of news production is a process that is as yet unfinished and its
recent consequences are still being verified. This process, while taking place on a
global level, takes on specific characteristics in each and every reality. Digitalisation is
lived in one way in the large media and in a very different way in the smaller media, in
the public or private media, etc. In many Catalan media, the process of digitalisation
began in the head office (normally in Barcelona) and only later was extended to the
local outstations. This technological change has favoured the financial management of
the media networks, a fact that allows costs to be reduced thanks to the smaller
number of staff required to operate the news-gathering apparatus. In addition,
management is simplified.
Digitalisation is bringing about a whole series of transformations in production routines
and professional profiles. In this context, professions change (for example, that of the
journalist, who is now becoming polyvalent), as do the relations between professions

18
(for example, between journalists and computer programmers).
Digitalisation is leading to the disappearance of a series of professional figures that
have long been a part of the media, from the sub-editor to the music editor, the
camera operator, etc. If we see these extinctions from the perspective of the social
history of technology, we might say that this is almost a natural process: every new
technology reshapes the media ecosystem and decrees the disappearance of some of
its actors. Digitalisation is, however, modifying traditional professional profiles. In
some radios, the head of the sound library is now becoming a manager of its contents,
and television set designers are now creating and developing virtual spaces.
Obviously, the central figure in all these transformations, at least from the perspective
of this research, is that of the polyvalent journalist.

4.2. Polyvalence
Journalistic polyvalence takes different forms. In the small media, the journalist has
always been polyvalent. In the new online media, the journalist assumes polyvalence
in a very natural way. Finally, in the large traditional electronic media, the taking on of
greater functions by the journalist is an unfinished process, and one that is often a
source of conflict and still unstable.
Amongst some of the interviewees, a certain preoccupation can be detected about the
increasing distance between the journalist and the object of the news story. The
journalist now tends to inform without stepping outside the newsroom since verifying
the information and checking sources is done online.
In this context, the native digital journalist has mastered the technology, adapts easily
to the digitalised production setting and has the capacity to work with different
formats and languages at the same time. Migrant digital journalists are professionals
who are obliged to retrain, to learn how the new tools of their work function and to
assimilate the new production logics.
In this framework, a classification has been proposed of the competences that a
journalist is required to assume in a digitalised workplace: technological polyvalence
(information professionals use software and hardware that allow them to produce and
manage contents on different supports), media polyvalence (information professionals
design and produce contents for different media) and thematic polyvalence
(information professionals design and produce contents for different sections).

5. FUTURE WORK
New research – in which different methodologies and focuses can be integrated – will
be necessary in order to fully apprehend the transformations being wrought by digital

19
technologies in the news media in Catalonia. The taxonomy of forms that polyvalence
takes presented here should be put to the test in future studies and, eventually, be
checked against the situation in other areas of production that have undergone
processes of digitalisation. On the other hand, studies dealing with the production
process should be complemented by analyses of information products and their
consumption. Two themes stand out as meriting particular attention in future
research: the merging of newsrooms and the quality of the information produced in
contexts marked by the polyvalence of the journalist.

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