It's still OK to major in journalism
Entry updated Feb. 19, 2008 at 7:56 a.m.
I spend a lot of time these days at the University of Tennessee here in Knoxville for my work as an adjunct in the journalism department. It's a constant reminder why it's still OK to major in journalism despite the job market shouting otherwise.
But let's get something straight: I'm not suggesting these students seek out a job as a reporter after graduation. In fact, that might soon become an impossibility.
I'd recommend journalism majors use the skills they've learned and honed in any number of fields that would value them. I'd list a few examples, but there are in fact too many to do so. Nearly every industry can use a journalist in their ranks.
You may need to pick up a few additional proficiencies in addition to your five-w's however. Dual-majors are the new black, right?
Here are a few skills that I believe make journalism majors valuable:
- Writing skills
- Analytic mindset
- Inquisitive nature
- Ability to meet deadlines
The first point is probably the most important. I can't tell you the amount of horrid writing I've seen since entering the business side of the industry. This skill alone will set you apart.
Factor in your ability to meet otherwise insane deadlines -- putting together the daily newspaper is a miracle after all -- and flexibility to work on multiple projects, and you can match wits with most business folks.
If a student is dead-set on getting a job in the media, I wouldn't stop them. I would request they put in some time with online media like TNJN.com.
Today's journalism graduates will want to have familiarity or proficiency with the following:
- Basic standards-based knowledge of HTML, CSS and XML
- Ability to tell a story using video
- Ability to tell a story using audio and photos
- Ability to write for the Web (as opposed to print)
- Ability to use a publishing content management system (CMS)
- Understanding of social media, and how to blog
- General understanding of Web analytics
- General understanding of online ad-serving
- General understanding of how search engines work (and how they impact online content)
If a student meets all of these criteria, I will guarantee nearly any newspaper that "gets" the Web will get bring them in for an interview.
I know not all college journalism departments have the faculty to teach these skills. There are many opportunities to gain this experience through internships and other departments however. This includes my favorites: the University of Barnes and Noble and it's sister school Amazon State.
So I can't completely dismiss the newspapers as a job prospect. It's where I found not only my love of Web media, but also the love of my life (my fiance).
And you can't ask for more than that from any industry (dying or not).