Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hiring/J-degree: Waco Tribune-Herald

First in a series in which professionals answer the question that students often ask me: Do you need a journalism degree to get hired in the field?

Many thanks to Carlos Sanchez, Editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald, for his responses:
When you hire a reporter or a copy editor, how important is it for an applicant to have a journalism degree?

I can't remember the last time I looked at the degree that a job candidate secured. What I look for is the quality of the resume, any clips, any other attachments that would give me a sense of the applicant's writing, editing, layout or multimedia abilities.

Why do you look for a journalism degree, or what do you look for instead of that?

Versatility and someone who challenges me during the interview are keys. Multimedia experience has lately grabbed my eye more and the ability to talk about multimedia is also important. We also place a high value on copy editing, current events tests or writing abilities during tryouts.

Is the picture different for entry-level applicants vs. experienced applicants?

Certainly, the picture is different. If we have a body of work to look at, that makes the decision-making easier. In lieu of the body of work, we look at testing and the applicant's ability to ask questions as well as answer them, to inject opinions about the craft and the state of the industry and verbal communication skills.

In closing, Sue, I know from A&M grads in my newsroom that there was a lot of controversy when the J-school program was closed a few years back. But the value of any degree has always paled in comparison to practical experience on student publications or internships.