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Home > Publications > Quill > On the Rebound


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Tuesday, August 1, 2006
On the Rebound

Recovery continues for journalism jobs

By Karon Reinboth Speckman

Journalism grads can look forward to a stronger job market, according to an annual report to be released the first week of August.

“The picture is a positive one,” said Lee B. Becker, who directs the Annual Surveys of Journalism and Mass Communication Graduates. “It could have easily been the case that last year was a blip. The evidence is that the recovery is continued. We are not back to where we were in 1999 to 2000, which is the best we’ve seen in recent years. But it’s certainly headed in that direction.”

Becker, director of the Cox Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia, said the figures will show that salaries went up but that increased inflation often ate up those nominal increases. In addition, the gap shown in previous years that minorities have a more difficult time in the market continues. But the report’s indicators, such as job offers and October employment, show more entry-level jobs are out there, a view shared by journalism professors from all areas of the country.

“My impression — totally anecdotal — is that it’s the best job market I’ve ever seen in the last five years,” said Rachele Kanigel, assistant professor in journalism at San Francisco State University.

She recently got two phone calls in two weeks from editors who wanted to hire her graduates — calls she’s not been used to getting in previous years. Kanigel also is seeing more job postings on sites such as craigslist.org. And contradicting conventional wisdom, she said one editor is anticipating jobs when the dust settles on a newspaper’s merger.

However, Kanigel noticed a trend that may affect graduates in 10 or so years — mid-career jobs aren’t out there.

“I’m really struck at how few higher-level jobs there are in comparison to how many entry-level,” Kanigel said. “If you have zero to four or five years of experience, you’re in great shape. If you have 10 to 15 years of experience, there’s not very much out there.”

Those entry-level jobs are available because publishers and online people are interested in hiring inexpensive workers as opposed to more experienced, said Joseph Bernt, professor and associate director of graduate studies at Ohio University’s School of Journalism. He added that although major metros may not be hiring, new jobs are opening up in other newspapers and areas.

“Community newspapers and weeklies are just going gangbusters, so there are lots of those kinds of low-salary types of jobs out there that appeal to a young person,” Bernt said. “…The environment is so fluid right now. Within the magazine industry, we talk about advertising downsizing, but there are new magazines starting constantly … because our society has become so much more of a niche market.”

Another professor echoing the positive trend is Cheryl M. Bacon, professor and chairwoman of the journalism and mass communication department at Abilene Christian University in Texas. She said that although her very best students always get jobs, this year appears to be different from three to four years ago.

“My sense is that they’re doing well in the job hunt,” she said. “Generally, students are pretty optimistic. They have found jobs or had good leads and felt pretty positive.”

However, graduates have to be flexible and must realize that their dream job may not be out there, Bacon said. She said one of her students who graduated a year ago couldn’t find the job in sports that he wanted. Instead, he settled for one he thought he didn’t want but really likes. He’s now the news director at a small-market television station.

Some of the entry-level jobs may come from traditional media trying to address the absence of young readers. Berrin Beasley, associate professor in the communication department at the University of North Florida, said one of their graduates was hired right out of college to write a pop culture column for the entertainment section of the local Jacksonville newspaper, and another was hired to write for the editorial page.

“I think our local media are trying to appeal to a younger audience,” Beasley said.

Finally, even with all the bad news about newspaper mergers and the readership decline, Becker said that the annual survey will show that students are not pessimistic about journalism.

He said: “A student might say ‘This is really what I want to do. Maybe I’m not going to work for the Philadelphia Inquirer, but I’ll find a job on some Web site that will let me be a writer and a reporter.’ ”

Bacon agreed that students are optimistic.

“I think they have pretty positive attitudes,” she said with a laugh. “You know, they’re all scared. If they’re smart, they’re scared.”

The Annual Surveys of Journalism and Mass Communication Graduates will be released at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication annual conference the first week in August and will be available at http://www.grady.uga.edu/annualsurveys.


Karon Reinboth Speckman teaches journalism and is the SPJ chapter adviser at Truman State University in Missouri. She can be reached at speckman@truman.edu.

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