Monday, September 29, 2008

Job market steady for new journalism grads

A new journalism graduate under the nom de plume "Freaked Out" recently asked Poynter's Joe Grimm:
If you had graduated college this May, would you have gone into newspapers? And for us budding writers who are still young and unfettered, is it time to switch paths?

Joe's answer is a good one (oversimplified version: Newspapers? Maybe not. Journalism? You bet), and gives a long-time newspaper employee's perspective on the change facing our industry.

And though news orgs are laying off and buying out, there are signs that for new journalism graduates, the job picture isn't as bad. UGA's annual survey of the journalism job market found that:
  • 63.3 percent of 2007 journalism and communications graduates in 2007 had a full-time job by the end of October 2007, almost exactly the same as the year before.
  • Median salary also stayed level at $30,000.
  • 78.3 percent had at least one job offer upon graduation, up from 76.2% the year before.

The report makes a statement with which most journalists out in the field will probably agree: ..."graduates mostly enter the labor market at the bottom, so turmoil at the top of the market isn't likely to affect them immediately." My translation: Companies who may not be hiring older, experienced (and thus more expensive) employees might still be seeking younger workers who start at a lower salary level. They also want your tech savvy and intrinsic knowledge of the youth market -- it's not just a cheap labor thing. : )

A related thought on the value of studying journalism in school: Though it is true that you don't absolutely need to study journalism to be a journalist, I would say that you will start off as a better journalist for having studied it in school. Which means, speaking in purely mercenary terms, that your first job will be a better-paying job at a larger news organization. Essentially, you are starting higher up the ladder.

Our own survey of Texas newspaper editors indicates that they often look for a journalism degree to help determine whether a new hire can do the essential work of a journalism job.

And this entry on the National Review's higher education blog does an excellent job of explaining the value of a journalism education, including these key points:
  • The most important thing a journalism school does is teach the basics. This comprises reporting and writing.
  • Journalism professors don't just present the material, but give students a chance to practice it, and get professional feedback, without publishing the results. Learning "on the job" in journalism, you can't make mistakes without misinforming the public. It's important to hone your chops outside the newsroom.
  • There are journalism-specific skills that only a journalism major will teach.