Sunday, December 9, 2007

Hiring/J-degree: Longview News-Journal

With the kind help of some of the top journalists who do the actual hiring around the state, I've reopened this series in which professionals answer a question that students often ask me: Do you need a journalism degree to get hired in the field?

In coming weeks, I'll post responses from the Wichita Falls Times Record News, the Victoria Advocate, the Killeen Daily Herald and the Galveston County Daily News. If you or someone at your news outlet would be interested in contributing responses to the three questions below, I would be absolutely delighted to include them; I'd like to represent a wide range of newspapers as well as broadcast and Web news.

Many thanks to Juan Elizondo, Managing Editor of the Longview News-Journal, for his answers that kick off this round!

When you hire a reporter or a copy editor, how important is it for an applicant to have a journalism degree?

We hire a lot of folks pretty fresh from college, so a journalism degree is a little more important for us than it is for some of your other respondents.

Why do you look for a journalism degree, or what do you look for instead of that?
We have a small newsroom staff, so a j-school introduction to basic reporting, writing, design, newspaper photography, videography and ethics is important.

We will hire an applicant who has no j degree if that person has newspaper experience, clips that show a range of abilities and good references.

An application that doesn't include newsroom internships or some kind of newspaper experience, with or without a j-degree, doesn't get much attention.

Is the picture different for entry-level applicants vs. experienced applicants?
Yes. A degree isn't very important for an applicant with a fair amount of experience. In those cases, I look closely at where folks have worked and the progression of newspapers. Short stays, a bunch of lateral moves or no obvious progression raise flags for me.