I have a cousin who will graduate from high school in June 2014. She dropped me a Facebook message recently and said she’s considering a career in photojournalism. Could I recommend a university journalism program?
I’ll be honest: The first thing that popped into my head was, “Are you nuts?” Media organizations have been disrupted by technology to the point where their long-term survival is consistently called into question. It’s almost impossible to predict the hiring landscape a year from now, never mind in five years.
At the same time, I still can’t imagine a better career choice than the one I made, so I want to be optimistic about the future.
“Are you nuts?” is not what I told her.
I did point out that finding a good paying, full-time job as a journalist, particularly a photojournalist or any format-specific role, has likely never been tougher. But the skillset required is still extremely valuable. Not just in media, but at any organization—big or small—that wants to provide quality content. What’s changed more than anything is the need for a wider variety of skills.
Aspiring journalists should be prepared to effectively write, take photos, shoot and edit video and, of course, be highly literate on social media. Creating content in a vacuum won’t cut it. You’ll need a dash of personality and marketing skills to help promote your work.
My recommendation to my cousin was to investigate several universities and colleges offering journalism, communications or digital media degrees. If I were graduating from high school right now, I like to think I’d still choose to be a journalist, but I’d want to put my money on a program that offers me that broad mix of skills, preparing me for what lies ahead.
Creating content in a vacuum won’t cut it.
My job as an editor has changed immensely over the past few years. Assigning stories and sharpening copy is still an important part of what I do, but I’m increasingly involved in blogging, video production, live events and other forms of business development and promotion.
I’ve learned a lot from the entrepreneurs I’ve covered, and I’ve applied some of those lessons to my own work. Aspiring journalists will be doing themselves a big favour by self-publishing on a dedicated website that they build and populate. Not only will it be a great way to stand out and showcase your work to potential employers and on the all-powerful Internet, it just might be an opportunity to sell your efforts for financial gain.