SPJ Reading Room
New grads face a crossroads in pursuit of dream job
By Dale Denwalt II
Making a job choice coming out of school is, for me, one of the toughest challenges I’ve faced in the last four years. The task is daunting: Should I keep pursuing my dream of reporting, or should I consider working in communications of the business or government persuasion?
My degree qualifies me for any of those jobs and I think any of those would be fun to explore. The problem arises from the variables attached to a recent college graduate. When it comes to taking a pass on journalism for a couple of years, even I am guilty of considering the option.
|Dale Denwalt II is news editor for The Northeastern in Tahlequah, Okla.|
Depending on the university attended and the amount of grants and scholarships, the cost of an education can skyrocket. Higher-paying private sector jobs can erase that debt quicker than a simple reporter gig. And if you started a family during college, you might opt for the more stable corporate route.
Even some mid-career journos have left the business for higher paying public relations-type jobs, as shown in this letter to The Poynter Institute’s Jim Romenesko.
Whether it is PR or some other type of communications job, there are more listings for non-reporter jobs on the Internet – plain and simple. That makes considering this career path so attractive. Most listings for journalist positions in my home state of Oklahoma are for general assignment reporting at small-town newspapers. And while we all recognize the importance of climbing the ladder, forgoing what would seem like a boring job in an unfamiliar town is less attractive that trying for a shot in the big city.
For the born-and-bred journalist, however, a PR job might not be as fulfilling as tracking down hard news from a solid beat.
Learning the other side
There are countless things political or business reporters want to know about their sources and their sources’ jobs. Knowing these things helps a journalist cover their beat. Probably the best way to learn the tricks of the trade is to do a bit of trading first.
However, there are some ethical concerns to watch out for. That’s why there are rules against the “revolving door,” where government employees rotate between corporate interests and the governmental agencies that regulate them.
If you have just left an agency or industry to write about it for a newspaper, make sure your editor knows about the situation and understands any perceived conflict of interest.
Future of the business
It’s no secret that newspapers are cutting back. Corporate fat-trimmers have made the Los Angeles Times so lean, even those at the top of the masthead faced the ax. And around the country, low circulation coupled with fewer print advertising dollars have nearly forced some newspapers out of business or into competitors’ hands.
However, we recent graduates must keep our mission in mind. Being a journalist is a higher calling, and with it comes sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice comes in the form of irregular hours, sometimes in low pay.
How early is too early to start looking for a journalism job?
I will graduate in December, but I am already looking for that dream job. So far, all that I have found out is that most employers looking for employees need people now.
And even then, when I graduate, getting my dream job is far from likely. I will keep working for it, though, compiling clips, broadening my education and looking for the next break.
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