Journalism is in a quandary. From questions of trust to how the business model can survive in the digital age, the conversation about keeping the industry afloat is ongoing. News of layoffs, lost advertising revenue and the blunt, uneasy criticism of the press from the Trump administration have become ever-present norms in the media world.
Also the norm: competition for jobs, as well as the anxiety of navigating a career, whether you’re a younger journalists fresh from college or a laid-off industry veteran trying to find your next step. They’re asking themselves if they can truly make an impact in this industry.
Social media has undoubtedly revolutionized journalism in the 21st century. Yet its affects go beyond the realm of disseminating information. It has allowed aspiring journalists as well as those currently in the industry to network and exchange ideas.
In this time of unease and high stress in journalism, social media has given us new ways to invest in ourselves and our future, whether it’s soon-to-be graduates getting acquainted with the industry or professionals trying to gain a new perspective to help with their next career steps.
That perspective is a click or tap away. Here’s some advice on how to best go about it.
Engage with people who inspire you: Follow and interact with them on Twitter or Facebook. Their advice may help as you try to make sense of evolving trends in journalism.
• Ask for a conversation: If you’re on Twitter, send a tweet to the person you want to speak to. Make it simple, e.g. “Could you follow me so I can DM (direct message) you about something?” Then, take it offline and arrange a time to connect. If contact information is listed on their bio, use that to make arrangements, and then have a conversation.
• Ask a friend or colleague: Crowdsourcing advice within your own network can also help. Find time to sit down and get a cup of coffee and just chat. It may also allow you to reciprocate and help the person you’re talking to if they need it.
• Do a group LinkedIn email: If you’re on LinkedIn, there’s an option to export your connections onto an Excel spreadsheet or as vCards. Take those email addresses and write for advice, but don’t bombard your group; tell them in the beginning of your email that this is a one-time thing. The responses you get from your network will help broaden your horizons.
• Stay in touch: Your initial conversation may have ended, but stay in touch with that person and don’t be afraid to ask more questions in the future. It’ll not only give you more necessary insight but also help expand your network.
You may feel nervous or uncertain at first, but getting perspective to help your prospects is an investment that is simple and has far more pros than cons. We may work at different organizations with different beats, but our goals at the end of the day remain the same: to inform, educate and engage the public the best we can.
The time you put in and the conversations you have will benefit not just you and your self-esteem, but your ability to make a difference for the people that matter most in journalism: your audience.
Alex Veeneman, a Chicago-based SPJ member, serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee and contributes to SPJ’s blog network. Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a managing editor for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the U.K. On Twitter: @Alex_Veeneman