At 24 years old, I thought I had it all. After a two-year delay, I had finally graduated with a bachelor’s in English and a concentration in journalism. The Cincinnati Herald, the newspaper where I had worked part time as an editorial assistant during my senior year, hired me full time as an assistant editor immediately after graduation. Two months later, I moved out of my parents’ home into my own apartment. I felt totally independent, making my own money in a career that I adored and living by my own rules.
I loved it.
Fast forward six months, and I almost lost it all. In April 2007, after less than a year as assistant editor, I was let go. But not because of my work ethic or because I didn’t fulfill my duties. I was permanently laid off because of budget cuts. At that moment, I felt as if I had no purpose or passion for journalism anymore. Needless to say, many young reporters and editors are probably feeling the same way, not knowing whether to stay in journalism — especially print — or turn their backs on the field that used to have such high hopes. According to a survey by the Associated Press Managing Editors this year, many newspapers are losing their young reporters, photographers and editors because of layoffs, buyouts and attrition.
While the layoffs and buyouts may be an indicator of why young journalists and editors are fading from newsrooms, many wonder why the same young journalists and editors never return. Kellie Geist, a reporter for The Community Press, a Gannett-owned newspaper in the Cincinnati suburbs, said that although she plans to stay in journalism, the industry just doesn’t appeal to younger journalists anymore.
“I think that young people get depressed about the field,” the 24-year-old said. “When I was in school at Northern Kentucky University, professors said that a number of jobs that are traditionally entry-level reporter jobs are dwindling, and young people feel disadvantaged.”
Brittany Davenport, a reporter at the weekly Mount Sterling (Ky.) Advocate, agreed, saying that her classmates at Eastern Kentucky University were also discouraged before they even got into the field full-time.
“They weren’t interested in working in journalism at all,” she said. “They’d worked four years for a degree, and they didn’t even want to make a career out of it. That made no sense to me.”
One of things that had me dubious about returning to the field after being permanently laid off was salary. It’s no secret that entry-level journalism positions for reporters fall in the $20,000 to $25,000 salary range and, for entry-level editors, in the $25,000 to $30,000 range, according to the employment Web site Indeed.com. But money is not the main reason I and many young and eager reporters want to enter the field. Before deciding on a career as a reporter, Geist noted that she originally wanted to become a lawyer because she likes to “fight” and play devil’s advocate, looking at both sides of an argument to get behind the truth. She found journalism an easier outlet to see all viewpoints of an issue, learning to appreciate her career from day to day.
“It’s easy to leave,” she said. “But remember the things that are keeping you here. Money aside, it’s an awesome job.”
If you’re a young journalist deciding whether to stay in the industry, here are four tips to help you:
REMEMBER WHY YOU GOT INTO JOURNALISM IN THE FIRST PLACE
If your reasons are still valid, as in you enjoy reporting, then consider staying. If not, then it may be time to re-evaluate your career.
EVALUATE WHETHER IT’S YOUR WORKPLACE, AND NOT THE JOURNALISM INDUSTRY ITSELF, THAT’S MAKING YOU DOUBT YOUR CAREER
Sometimes where you work can make you question your choice of career. If this is the case, talk with your editor or manager about your job. If that doesn’t seem to work, then it may be time to update your resume.
TRY DOING SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN THE FIELD
If you’re a newspaper reporter, try photo journalism or editing. If you’ve been editing for a while, you might consider doing some reporting to see if your passion for the field is still there.
KEEP UP WITH THE INDUSTRY
The journalism industry is changing rapidly, and reporters and editors have to keep up with the changes. Take classes and attend seminars that teach about new and exciting developments in the field. You never know; learning new things about the industry may reignite your passion for journalism.