Posted on January 12, 2007
Getting (and keeping) a job in journalism
How many j-schools are permitting students to graduate with a journalism degree and inadequate skills to pursue a career in journalism?
I’m not asking for a count, but the question needs to be raised — and perhaps even shoved into the face of some deans and department heads. I don’t mean “shove” as in “break their nose” — but something like glue it to their nose until they finally get it.
The announcement of editorial cutbacks at The Boston Globe inspired me to write — because of this:
The New York Times Company is offering a voluntary buyout plan to newsroom and business-office employees in its New England Media Group as part of an effort to cut 125 jobs at The Boston Globe and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette … excluding some parts of the group’s operations, like Boston.com, according to a memo sent by P. Steven Ainsley, publisher of The Globe and head of the group.
Keith Jenkins of The Washington Post (not washingtonpost.com, mind you) wrote:
Traditional news organizations must not invest in transitioning people to this new world; we already live in it.
Instead, we should be inventing this new world with people who already populate it. Real bloggers, photobloggers and vloggers — embrace them and learn from them. Only then can we continue to be relevant.
And this is the word from inside the Atlanta Journal Constitution newsroom, by way of news graphics editor Michael Dabrowa (with his permission granted for me to republish):
We here at the AJC are rapidly and somewhat radically reworking our newsroom to [an] online first, print second format. Jobs are being reworked to meet the need to get dynamic content up fast. I am shifting out of my Graphics Editor role to a frontline online-artist position, developing online graphics. Very soon the entire graphics department will be regularly producing interactives (and statics) for online. Doing this we are still in solid position to produce print graphics, when we were doing it the other way online was getting the short end of the stick because it was too late in the day to be posting graphics. We now have two Graphics Editors who coordinate content for the department with a strong eye on online posiblities. We also have a Graphics Director, the newly appointed Joanne Sosangelis, who will work on planning and will make sure we move through this change as smoothly as possible. Emily Murphy is our Director of Multimedia, who also works directly with us as well as with Michael McCarter from the Photo Department. It’s just [a] busy hive here right now. We have as many questions as we do answers, it’s really a moving target, but I believe we are getting good traction.
What does this tell us — whether we are educators, job-seekers, working journalists or current students?
The future is online.
I am far from being the ONLY person who has already been saying this for years. Far too many people, however, are still plugging cotton into their ears and shutting their eyes.
If a student in a j-school today thinks it is okay NOT to learn how to make Web pages, NOT to shoot video, NOT to gather audio, NOT to read and write blogs — then that student is not getting a message that is very, very necessary. Now, let me hasten to say that some of those students are the very ones who are deliberately plugging their own ears and closing their eyes to reality. They are attached to a dream of becoming someone from the past — maybe photojournalist Eddie Adams, maybe gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson — a journalist who only took pictures or who only wrote (okay, Thompson did a lot besides just writing, and some of it pretty unsavory too, but as for the journalism, he was a writer).
Some students will persist in this dream no matter what anyone tells them. But some of them are surely encouraged by their teachers and other mentors to imagine that there still exists a world where people only read, and mostly on paper. Or a world where photojournalists have the luxury of being a lone wolf, cut off from all their colleagues on “the print side.”
So I would ask, or even plead: Everyone who teaches journalism, whether in the classroom or the newsroom — get real and talk straight, starting today. Tell the next generation that even though writing is not dead, it is not enough. They need to know more, they need to do more.
- Get off of MySpace and Facebook and start making Web sites from scratch.
- Quit wallowing in the verbiage of Slate and Salon and start searching the blogs. Get an RSS reader and learn to use it.
- Stop watching YouTube and start making videos of your own (and then post them on YouTube).
- Take the earbuds out and buy a microphone.
- Stop mixing music and start mixing interviews and natural sound.
- Start figuring out why this Web site is easier to use than this one.
This advice also applies to every one of you who isn’t a student. All my fellow educators. All of you working journalists. Stop making excuses. This is necessary now.
Someone with a journalism degree certainly ought to be adequately prepared to have a career in journalism, don’t you think?