Monday, December 8, 2008

Open Letter to Aspiring Young Journalists

You're going to hear a lot about the death of newspapers. You'll be reading a lot about companies like the Tribune Co. and McClatchy declaring bankruptcy or going into default. And you're gonna wonder if maybe your college major should be in a more promising career field, like plumbing, Wal-Mart greeter or Subway sandwich artist. At the risk of this being the last sentence you read, I'll tell you now - the answer is no. The world still needs its storytellers, its Ida Tarbells, its Woodwards and Bernsteins. But the days of doing it for print in a big city metro daily may not be your destiny. The chances of you working at such an establishment are shrinking with every buyout and lay-off, but there is still a need for journalists. You're going to have to think smaller - in some cases, you'll be headed to a small town or community newspaper. You'll think - like I did - that the job will be easy. It won't be. You'll work harder - and learn more - in one month at a small paper than you will in one month at a major metro. Why? Because you'll be immediately thrown into the fire. You'll also be doing more than one job. That versatility will translate into career longevity. Or you'll opt to go it alone. You'll blog, and if you're good at it, it will help you gain the attention of various news organizations that will in turn give you freelance jobs. You'll become your own boss, and an entreprenuer - your own media mogul, if you will. If you're in high school, looking for that journalism school that will best assist you in the new world of reporting, look to schools like Texas A&M - Commerce, that offer community journalism programs, or Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, which recently revamped its curriculum to zero in on digital reporting. In summary, government will always need sunshine to be healthy, and reporters to clear the parasols. I'm wagering you've already figured out that journalism isn't for those desiring untold wealth and riches, but done correctly, it has benefits you can't buy. Good luck.