Journalism jobs: Online design producer

The Rocky Mountain News Web site needs a “design producer.” I thought that was a pretty interesting job title — not a designer, and not just a producer (hm, story producer, news producer … design producer) to “work with our developers and producers to build innovative tools and applications.”

Sometimes these job ads seem to be asking for what Sean Blanda has hilariously labeled “computer jesus.” This one from the Rocky is not so bad, but a few items in the wish list made me read twice.

  • Understanding of user interface and ability to produce designs that meet users’ needs (that’s very reasonable)
  • Advanced HTML and CSS proficiency (obviously necessary for online design)
  • Proficiency in Flash 8/Flash CS (no doubt they mean CS3; also sensible and natural)
  • Proficiency in Adobe Indesign and Photoshop CS (Photoshop, of course — but InDesign? What, you need this person to design the print product as well? Get real!)
  • Strong attention to detail (of course)
  • Ability to work in a team environment and under pressure, with tight deadlines (sure, sure)

Desired skills a plus:

  • Experience with ColdFusion 6.1 and higher (oh, that’s too bad; lots of applicants just quit reading the ad)
  • Experience with XML (very natural, very smart)
  • Experience with online audio/video production (now wait a minute — this person can design in code, and you ALSO want audio and video? Here is where good people decide not to apply for this job)
  • Experience with Final Cut Pro and/or Adobe Premier (see the previous item; you are now asking for computer jesus)
  • Experience with FLV video formatting (this, on the other hand, is not so bad, because you DO want your designer to be a Flash guru, and this is not necessarily incompatible with that. However, it would be better to have a video producer and put this is THAT job description)

This person must also be able to:

  • Balance priorities and take deadlines seriously (of course)
  • Think and learn quickly (sure)
  • Take ownership of projects and be proactive in problem-solving (okay, yeah, nice)
  • Help conceive and develop database-driven projects for use in print and on the site (computer jesus!)

But then, after a reasonably intelligent ad, the Rocky wrecks it:

Design producer requirements: Thorough knowledge of web production languages and software including HTML, CSS, Flash 8/Flash CS and Javascript plus multimedia applications multimedia applications such as Adobe Indesign and Photoshop CS. Experience with ColdFusion, XML, dynamic publishing experience and familiarity with Final Cut Pro and/or Adobe Premier are desired. Must be able to work effectively under deadline pressure. College degree, media experience, and minimum two years experience with Web design, hosting and maintenance required. Must be willing to work some night and weekend shifts.

Web hosting and maintenance? No! Kiss of death! Die! Die! Run away!

“Some nights and weekends” is not bad. This is journalism, after all. But Web hosting and maintenance?

Why not ask for an utterly useless MCSE certification too, while you’re at it?

(For the sake of comparison, see my earlier post about the requirements for an online NEWS producer at The Washington Post.)

23 Comments on “Journalism jobs: Online design producer

  1. This reminds me of some internship job postings I would read back in college–some were quite daunting. My professors told me that those postings were written to scare off students who weren’t serious about getting into journalism.

    As for these, comeon. Asking for such broad skill sets either says “computer Jesus” or “we don’t know what we’re talking about” (or both.)

  2. Gosh, except for the ColdFusion (yuck) and the Web hosting & maintenance — You are looking at my job description and I sure am NOT any kind of “computer deity.” As a multimedia designer, I do use inDesign to look at print pages. Some of my illustrations for online have been used for print. I think being able to create good multimedia design plus be able to edit audio and video is just part of the job today. (Oh and in a pinch, I’ve shot video and collected audio too.)

  3. @Desiree — you are a rare and wonderful journalist. I hope they’re paying you a lot!

    But … do you need to “know” InDesign just to open up the pages? (I probably know enough about InDesign to do that.)

    I recently surprised a group by telling them I know barely anything about InDesign and nothing about how to use Illustrator (or Freehand). People seem to think that because I know Flash and XHTML/CSS/JavaScript, I know every piece of software in the world. Ha! NOT true!

    It’s very sensible that graphics you have created for online have then been used in the print product too. But did you have to do much besides up the resolution and save as CMYK? (I’d love to hear about it.)

    If I ran the world (ha, look out!), I would not be using up the valuable time of my experienced DESIGN people with editing audio or video. There is SO MUCH need for better design, more and better graphics, better interactive work — on every single news Web site — it seems sad (to me) that a designer’s time is not 100 percent devoted to that need.

  4. I love these job postings. I want someone to tell me where all these Computer Jesuses are so I can hire a few.

    I think I’d be able to help a lot of newspapers make their online products better, but I’m not remotely qualified for some of these jobs ads. I wouldn’t seriously consider applying for an ad like this. I wonder who would?

    I’m willing to bet that either they settle for someone who doesn’t remotely meet this description or they find someone who knows most of what they want, but not very well. (Hey, I’ve heard of Cold Fusion, does that me qualified?)

    People who are really good with Flash are usually designers, not database programmers. This ad somehow seeks both. And it wants an IT person to boot!

    The NY Times on the other hand does it the smart way. They have designers work with programmers. But The Rocky Mountain News is THE name in newspapers, so naturally all the computer Jesuses will be applying there.

    Newspapers need to hire consultants to tell them what the can realistically look for and hire. If someone asked me if this was a good job posting (and people do from time to time), I’d laugh. This is ridiculous.

  5. Oh, no, no, no, Pat — the consultants DO NOT have any clue what to tell these folks about hiring.

    Consultants in the newspaper business excel at telling publishers what they want to hear. (This is one reason why the newspaper business has eroded and declined to the extent we see today: Consultants who told the publishers the right things, the true things, were fired.)

    Consultants do not actually know what the people who design, produce and report DO. They do not know how the newsroom itself WORKS. Let alone the Web site.

  6. I’d probably make a bad consultant then. I have this problem with being too honest at times. 🙂 But I don’t get paid to lie to people.

    Publishers need to hire consultants who know what they are talking about, and who are willing to tell them like it is. If I were a publisher, I’d ask someone like Rob Curley for guidance. Heck, The Lawrence Journal-World should just set up a consulting business.

    I could even tell someone what kind of developers they need to hire and why. And also how Web people need to integrate in with newsroom employees (I’m a sort of hybrid).

    I guess when I mean consultants, I mean qualified people. I don’t mean some 50-year-old guy from API who hasn’t worked in a newsroom in 15 years and never worked on a Web site but read an article or some report and thinks that makes him qualified. I mean someone in the industry who knows what they are talking about.

  7. Actually the requirements aren’t all that unreasonable if you really consider it. If I were the one hiring I’d certainly expect that a producer would be at least familiar with all those things (and many more) so he/she knows what can be accomplished and how to make it all come together. It is however unreasonable to expect that it would be just one person who has to deliever all the pieces of the puzzle.

  8. @Jernej — One problem I see in this kind of job ad is that you might attract too many people who are “familiar with” a lot of the stuff requested but not really great at doing any of it.

    If the hiring organization could decide what they really want the new hire to be proficient in, then the person hired would probably be a better fit, and everyone would be happier.

  9. great to see an article about jobs in the Colorado media that didn’t once use the word “bloodbath”.

  10. I pity the fool that gets stuck with this position, especially if they’re on a small team (or alone).

    I also pity the managers who won’t understand why everything is perfect the way they envisioned it.

    It’s a bad situation, and I would expect it to be a short lived hire, if any. The ad attracts too many people and not enough people at the same time.

    I’d never apply for this position and I’m probably qualified for what they actually want to accomplish.

    Lastly, bad job ads like this are huge flags that you’ll be working in an environment that doesn’t understand technology, let alone Web production. Avoid at all costs.

  11. I came from the print world so I know inDesign and Quark Xpress and use them all the time for print projects. Let face it, being able to do design, illustration, Flash, audio and video makes you more marketable. I feel like I have a group skills that will keep me employed when many specialists are looking for jobs.

  12. You know, if you leave off the Cold Fusion and Web hosting/maintenance, add in PHP/MySQL and Javascript, and define proficiency very loosely, that list sounds more or less like what I do for my college newspaper.

    Of course, being in this kind of position kind of sucks.

  13. @albert: I know what you mean — it’s not a good position to be in. Some people would say, “At least you have a job.” But there are good jobs and bad jobs.

  14. Actually, we have quite a few people here in Orlando who exactly fit this job description: Flash design, video production and some development experience and/or ability to at work with a hosting provider to get a site off the ground and maintain it.

    The job posting requires a broad skill set, but I don’t think that it quite descends into “Computer Jesus” territory.

    Increasingly, being able to integrate FLV format video into Flash graphics is important. I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to expect a multimedia producer to be at least comfortable working with a video editing suite.

    Lastly, ColdFusion is a bit of the odd duck with open-source being all the rage. But frankly, I wouldn’t hire a Flashionista who can’t do any development or isn’t at least crazy eager to learn. The days of click-next, click-next Flash “interactives” are over, and the dawn of the dynamic data visualization is upon us. And you can’t do that without someone who is willing to get his hands dirty with code.

    Re: InDesign, that may because they work closely with the print side of the newsroom in re-purposing artwork. Just a guess, of course. But honestly, if you know Photoshop and Illustrator (which you SHOULD if you’re a designer), then InDesign is a cinch.

  15. @Danny: I agree completely that a Flash producer or designer today must know how to write code and how to hook Flash projects out to external data, especially XML. I also agree that someone who produces Flash ought to know how to integrate FLVs into the Flash package.

    I also think some of these folks are not going to be illustrators or artists, and so, increasingly, we might see great Flash producers who don’t know how to flow copy in a print page design program and who don’t know how to use the pen tool.

  16. They probably also want to pay $30k. That’s just ridiculous.

    Asking someone to be good at InDesign and Coldfusion and then help with database integration on both the print and online product is ridiculous and probably irrelevant to the actual job…that’s what made this a “computer jesus” job. I really laughed when I saw that.

    Really, how many people do you know that 1. Know Coldfusion, After Effects, InDesign, XML, CSS. 2. are really good at all of them. I’m with Mindy on this one.

  17. @Ray Villalobos

    Isn’t it funny (well not to me, Mr. Dedicated Journalist), that these sorts of jobs would pay $30,000 at a newspaper but pay at least 2 times that in other parts of the real world.

  18. @peter: OUCH.

    And we don’t know how much they are paying, in fact.

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