As a journalism professor working in today’s economy, I worry about what to tell my bright-eyed, enthusiastic seniors who are about to graduate, looking for a job in the media and ready to use their degrees.
The optimistic Gene Ely, longtime journalist and editor and publisher of the online publication MediaLifeMagazine.com, said this is actually a time “exploding with opportunities” for our journalism graduates and others who are willing to think outside conventional media models.
“Break down all the traditional stuff,” he said.
For instance, Ely recently hired a Southern Illinois University graduate who was required to read Ely’s online publication for a class requirement. After the student graduated, the two started a conversation via e-mail and phone, and Ely hired him sight unseen. He still hasn’t met him in person, but “he’s doing a great job.”
Ely would tell students to “live where you want, and do what you want.”
Many members of the SPJ Journalism Education Committee were willing to share their advice and ideas with me — advice helpful not only for journalism students but for anyone looking for work in the media.
Don’t narrowly define yourself
Ginny Whitehouse, an associate professor of communication studies at Whitworth University, said students should think “broad skill set.” Ideally, students should be able to do public relations and online and video work, and know how to report and write.
Be an entrepreneur
George Daniels, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Alabama, said instructors need to emphasize entrepreneurship
efforts in every class. Students should consider what they are already producing or publishing, either for class or outside of class.
Consider smaller organizations
Elizabeth Hansen, professor of journalism at Eastern Kentucky University, said her program focuses on teaching community journalism.
“What we’re finding is that the smaller papers aren’t being hit as hard as the bigger ones,” she said.
Do another internship
Gaylon Murray, professor of mass communications at Grambling State University, and Bonnie Stewart, an assistant professor of journalism at West Virginia University, suggest students consider an internship after graduation, paid or unpaid.
“It’s far better to go to an internship (after graduation) than to begin waiting tables,” Stewart said.
Fine-tune multimedia skills
Graduating seniors should know they are cheaper to hire, more adaptable and, usually, more technologically savvy than their older counterparts. “Young journalists have an advantage over more senior journalists job-hunting now,” said Tara George, assistant professor of journalism at Purchase College, New York.
No matter what graduating seniors decide to do, if they want to continue in the field for which they studied, they need to keep doing journalism — whether they are paid or not — and they need to be flexible. All the above suggestions could lead to a permanent job.