Press release for 2017 News Nerd Survey

OpenNews announces the results of the 2017 News Nerd Survey, the largest survey of the community working at the intersection of journalism and technology with 756 responses from 192 organizations. This survey was made possible by the support of Google News Lab and the guidance of a community advisory group in order to better understand the career trajectory of the news nerd community.

These “news nerds,” the developers, designers, editors, data analysts, and product folks who work in tech and journalism, are leading the way forward in newsrooms by innovating with technology and guiding organizational change. Their multidisciplinary perspective allows them to see that roadblocks to collaboration and inclusion are major challenges in this industry.

This survey shows how these technologists are becoming more established in the field (55% of respondents have worked in the field for five years or more, compared to 44% last year) and are well-positioned to move into more formal leadership and management roles. Respondents identify “overload of projects” (52% of respondents), “balancing own stories verses supporting the newsroom” (50%), and a need for “editors who are qualified to supervise the work of technologists” (39%) as the biggest challenges to using technology as a core journalistic practice.

Their survey responses reveal that how work happens in newsrooms and who is included in that work are key issues to deal with in helping newsrooms work with technology better. Respondents also see potential solutions. The top response for adding a new role to the team is a “project manager” (named by 8% of respondents) and more than a quarter (29%) say that diversity is one of the top three things the journalism tech community needs now.

One component of increasing diversity is that news organizations need to address harassing behavior in their workplaces. 20% of respondents who work at a news or media organization reported that they were the target of microaggressions or direct harassment. Their responses also showed that harassment tends to happen more often inside the newsroom–by managers, coworkers or other personnel–than outside the newsroom with sources or interviewees.

News nerds see, and experience, this destructive culture while they also feel the increasing demands on their time to learn new tech, to satisfy a 24-hour news cycle, to do more with less. They understand how communication, collaboration, and prioritization challenges intensify these dynamics and get in the way of doing great work and building diverse teams.

“News nerds see opportunities, and a responsibility, to wield culture and process to alleviate the internal challenges facing journalism. Savvy organizations will keep moving news nerds into more managerial roles, where they can implement the training, support, and workplace policies that welcome and sustain technologists from marginalized communities and create a clear career pathway for tech in journalism,” said Erika Owens, deputy director of OpenNews.

Over the next two days, 125 news nerds will have the chance to delve into exactly these topics with OpenNews’ conference SRCCON:WORK. As this survey reflects, this is a community that prioritizes supporting one another (71% of respondents have taught, mentored, or supported someone else in the field in the last year) and at SRCCON:WORK, participants will discuss and strategize together on the career, collaboration, and care challenges raised in the survey.

The News Nerd Survey was made possible by the support of Google News Lab and the contributions of a community advisory group including Soo Oh, John S. Knight Fellow; Jennifer Lee, Google News Lab; and Liam Andrew, The Texas Tribune. Research firm Network Impact developed and administered the survey, following on from their recent research report for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on OpenNews. Google News Lab’s support allowed OpenNews to expand from the first news nerd survey last year, and further develop this survey as a resource for community members to better understand the field and their peers, and share suggestions for the future.

In addition to the management and collaboration questions, the survey asked about skill building, demographics, inclusive policies, and more. Some highlights:

  • Survey respondents were 57% male, and the group is more balanced vs. last year (41% female in 2017 vs. 33% female in 2016). Race/ethnicity remained similar to 2016, with 78% of respondents identifying as white; 11% as Asian American; 6% as Latino or Hispanic American; 6% Multi-ethnic/Multi-racial; 4% as Black, Afro-Caribbean, or African American.
  • Just over half of respondents from the U.S. were from Los Angeles, New York, or DC metropolitan areas (51%). Responses between metro markets and the rest of the U.S. sometimes differed significantly. Some major differences included: 26% of respondents from outside metro areas reported working remotely 5 days a week compared to 9% in metro areas. In responding to the biggest challenge facing their team, there was an 18 point gap, with 46% of respondents outside of metro areas citing it as a challenge that they do not have editors qualified to supervise tech work and 28% of respondents in metro areas citing that. Citing lack of budget as a challenge was a 24-point gap, with 44% of respondents outside of metro areas citing it and 20% in metro areas citing it.
  • Respondents shared their awareness of a range of inclusive policies and practices. 64% of respondents reported their organization offers flexible work hours and paid parental leave while only 13% were aware of a policy for salary parity or transgender inclusive health insurance.
  • 65% of respondents reported wanting to learn a technical skill, with Python, Javascript, and R the most popular choices. Over 90% of respondents cited self-study as “important” or “very important” in the development of the skills they currently use as a news nerd. Over half of respondents have an undergraduate/graduate degree in a field other than journalism or computer science, with political science, business/economics, and communications the top degree fields reported.

Results of the survey are available now in summary form from Network Impact (data, slideshow overview). The Google News Lab created a an interactive visualization to explore the data and Soo Oh conducted an analysis of survey data. OpenNews is available to chat with any organizations interested in a better understanding of the data. Discussion of the survey and the evolution of the news nerd community will continue at SRCCON:WORK in Philadelphia on December 7 and 8, and in follow-up coverage on OpenNews’ publication Source.

About OpenNews OpenNews connects a network of developers, designers, journalists and editors to collaborate on open technologies and processes within journalism. OpenNews believes that a community of peers working, learning and solving problems together can create a stronger, more responsive, and ascendant journalism ecosystem. Incubated at the Mozilla Foundation from 2011-2016, OpenNews is now a project of Community Partners.

About Community Partners Community Partners offers expert guidance, fiscal sponsorship and other essential services, and a strong dose of passion to help foster, launch and grow creative solutions to community challenges. For 25 years, hundreds of individuals, groups, foundations and other institutions have worked with us to create new nonprofit projects, establish coalitions, and manage major philanthropic initiatives to benefit the region.

About Google News Lab Launched in 2014, the News Lab is Google’s focused effort to fuel innovation within newsrooms and empower the creation of quality journalism. The team provides trainings in digital tools for journalists, conducts research on key issues facing the news industry, and builds programs and products to tackle the most critical challenges at the intersection of journalism and technology. In 2017, the team has focused on four areas where technology can help fuel innovation in journalism: trust and verification, data journalism, immersive storytelling, and inclusive storytelling. Learn more about the team’s work at

About Network Impact Network Impact provides consulting, tool-building, and research services to support social-impact networks, foundations, and the emerging field of network builders. More information and resources can be found at

posted December 05, 2017 | posted in newsnerdsurvey