Many thanks to Marc Gilbert, Managing Editor of the Killeen Daily Herald, for his answers.
When you hire a reporter or a copy editor, how important is it for an applicant to have a journalism degree?
I find myself going back and forth on this. I find it's most useful to consider journalism degrees as a qualifier. If a candidate has one, I know that they at least have the basic understandings of what I'm going to ask them to do or what the skills and routines associated with working in media. It is by no means a magic bullet that students with journalism degrees are sure-fire successes. Also you can somewhat gauge a person's level and areas of interest are going to be based on where their J-degree is from.
Why do you look for a journalism degree, or what do you look for instead of that?
A truer determinant of how someone is going to do, I think, is based on their clips and any practical experience they have. For example, I would be much more interested in someone who had a book of clips from their student newspaper and perhaps had a language degree than say someone who had a j-degree but had nothing to show for ever having put that skill to use. I counsel job seekers all the time about the importance of getting practical experience to show prospective employers.
Is the picture different for entry-level applicants vs. experienced applicants?
Again, experienced applicants had better have a track record of good clips to get a job. Naturally, if you have someone who's experienced (10 years) and has a j-degree, versus someone with just clips from 10 years of experience -- my estimation is that you're probably going to find a deeper level of reporting from the person with the j-degree.