As the big hourglass would have it, you’ve been born a journalist in an era of uncertainty. The faltering of some major institutions — from banks to auto companies to mass media organizations — has resulted in a contraction of the workforce and a subsequent scarcity of industry employment. Fortunately, writers and news-gatherers can’t be replaced by machines (yet), and society’s insatiable demand for good journalism will likely never cease. For every Old Gray Lady lurching toward the grave, there are dozens of fresh and eager professional/citizen/student/digital journalists innovating their way to success. Here are some options for recent and soon-to-be journalism grads.
Gathering some clips, polishing your resume and crossing your fingers used to be the primary means of pursuing your goal to become a working journalist. Now, you can take some of that fate into your own hands. Student journalists can make a name for themselves before they finish college by participating, collaborating, curating and creating online. One of our recent grads was recognized at a national conference by a prominent journalism professor because the professor recalled seeing her portrait on Twitter. You never know when the YouTube video you posted of your dog at the beach or the blog post you wrote about the restaurant in your neighborhood might be a crucial icebreaker at the big job interview. Of course, having a contact at the news organization you want to work for helps as does completing an internship there.
Move to another state. Experience a new setting. Make new friends. Hone your skills. Graduate journalism programs give you a chance to really define your area of expertise outside the industry. The diversity of original course offerings at today’s j-schools range from a Mobile Media course taught by two Apple iPhone application engineers at Berkeley to USC’s Internet and High Technology Public Relations to a course at University of Colorado that sounds like it belongs in the science building (Convergence and Hypermedia). Because of the changing nature of news gathering and delivery, grad schools are like experimental laboratories producing some of the most engaging, forward-thinking and technologically-advanced storytelling to date. Since most graduate schools tend to place graduates in jobs closest to home, it’s worth considering where you want to end up working when deciding where to apply.
As the once-mighty Goliaths of traditional journalism wilt, a slew of self-supported, news-hungry startups are rising from the ashes in nearly every small town across the country. Like sports writing? Consider starting your own hyperlocal website that covers nothing but high school athletics in your hometown like these two Santa Barbara natives did with Presidiosports. Like digging up the truth and holding your representatives accountable? Start your own investigative journalism website like one of our own graduates did in 2008. Since it was unveiled, the site (Cal Coast News) has broken several major stories involving local politicians, administrators, law-enforcement agencies, business etc. that the mainstream media missed.
Ever heard of a digital information librarian? Newsmastering? Online curation? As people begin to depend more and more on the Internet as their primary source of information for anything affecting their daily lives, the need for organization and info-distillation will increase. Some of the key functions of a Web curator, according to new media pioneer and journalism professor Mindy McAdams, include: selecting the best representative samples of something, providing context for something, organizing the whole, expertise/knowledge of particulars and updating constantly (link). Who could be better equipped to perform these tasks than journalists trained in effective communication, story organization, objectivity and ethics? Members of websites such as Publish2 and Newsvine do a good job of curating the massive amount of news content produced every day, making the everyday task of consuming the news more effective and fruitful.
Whichever direction you decide to go with your newly-minted degree, remember that it’s your communication skills, creativity and resourcefulness that set you apart from the pack. Opportunities to affect the future of a changing industry make journalism an exciting and fulfilling career choice for recent graduates. It’s just a matter of finding what aspect you’re the best at.