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Monday, August 10, 2009
Education Toolbox

Leaving the newsroom: What now?

By Butler Cain

Perhaps you recently cleared your desk

and waved goodbye to your colleagues. Or maybe you’re planning your escape. Either way, you’ve decided that it’s time for a change, and more of the daily news grind is not in your immediate future.

After spending more than 16 years in broadcast newsrooms, I made the same decision. Unless you are permanently retiring from work, I’m guessing that you, like me, are planning to have something else to do after walking through the newsroom’s door for the last time. Here are a few possibilities you may wish to consider.

SCRATCH YOUR TRAVEL ITCH

I have a pretty serious case of wanderlust, so I looked for ways I could use my experiences to get me around the world. I am now teaching for a well-known English language academy in Seoul, South Korea.

Media professionals have a lot to offer these organizations. With our academic and professional backgrounds, we have valuable perspectives on writing, analysis and interpretation. Besides, I’m a firm believer that all experiences are valuable to me as a journalist, and living abroad is giving me perspectives that I would never have learned had I stayed at home.

• Search for recruiting agencies online that can help you get connected to teaching organizations overseas. These recruiters get paid by the organization, not you, so there’s no cost to explore the possibilities.

• Consider some countries that aren’t at the top of your list. It’s easy to think, “I’ll go teach in London! Or maybe Paris!” The reality, though, is that you would be much more successful finding a job in Asia, Central or South America, or eastern Europe.

• Be patient. You will have to jump through a lot of hoops once you start the application process. It is going to take time and energy to get government documents, transcripts, photos and all of the other items necessary for applying for a job overseas.

• If you’re not interested in long-term employment, but you would still like to travel and teach or conduct research, consider applying for a Fulbright scholarship (www.cies.org). This is a prestigious and highly competitive program, but the potential rewards are worth the time it takes to apply.

GRADUATE SCHOOL

I know that some of us choose graduate school specifically to get out of the daily media grind. That’s OK. You may discover, however, that grad school actually re-energizes you professionally. If you are planning to attend graduate school, or are currently in your studies, consider returning to the newsroom and using your new knowledge as an agent of change.

• Professional newsrooms need people who have

spent some time away, learned new things and gained new perspectives. That promotes innovation.

• Use your degree to make the leap into management. Management positions come with their own challenges, of course, but the opportunities are great to pursue your own vision of what journalism should be.

• Teach part-time at a local college or university. These will be your future interns and, possibly, employees. Use your access to these students to get a jumpstart on your recruiting efforts.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

This may not be the obvious choice for some former newshounds, but there are some striking similarities between these two types of jobs. Many of us already think of journalism as service to our communities. We also serve on boards and participate in community service activities.

• Take a look at the service organizations in which you are already involved as a volunteer. Why not make the relationship full-time?

• Consider lesser-known or newer groups. These organizations need to raise awareness, and your higher-than-average community profile will make you an attractive member of the group.

BECOME A CONSULTANT

OK, I know! Consultant. Bear with me, here. You’ve spent years building knowledge, both professionally and academically, and that knowledge is valuable. Don’t think of it from the perspective of “How much money can I earn?” but rather “Who can use my help?” Here are a few ideas for setting up your new venture.

• Check with your state government (usually the secretary of state’s office) about establishing a limited liability corporation. It’s not prohibitively expensive, and there’s not much paperwork involved.

• Online printing services such as vistaprint.com can help you promote your new business. They offer reduced rates for business cards, letterhead, fliers, yard signs, magnets, etc.

• Web sites such as LegalZoom.com sell contract templates and other forms that you can use once your customers are ready to use your services.

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