I just hired a new editor this week to join the Writer’s Digest editorial team. In the process of screening applicants and going through the whole interview process with a number of fine journalistic candidates, I realized a few things that I thought might help those of you who are looking for a career in journalism.
The media landscape that new journalists now face has changed quickly and dramatically, and, unfortunately, merely being a superlative writer isn’t enough any more. Magazines and newspaper staffs have been downsized at just about every media company, and the editors and journalists who remain need to have a whole new set of skills.
So for the aspiring journalists and editors out there, here are a few old school and new media tips for landing a paying gig.
• Good writing and editing skills are still critical. Take all of the journalism classes you can because they will teach you to think of writing as a job and not to be too precious about your words. English classes are extremely useful too—to help you to recognize good vivid, imaginative writing. Being an excellent verbal communicator is as important as it’s ever been. But being an excellent verbal communicator who’s flexible enough to write for varying platforms—print, blogs, community sites, video scripts—will land you a job.
• Publish everywhere you can. Don’t be afraid to start small: your school paper, the local alt-weekly, whatever. Being published, even in smaller outlets will prove your tenacity, which is crucial if you want to survive in 21st century journalism. Note: a MySpace page doesn’t count as being published. But an essay published in a reputable online journal does—even if you didn’t get paid for it.
• E-Media skills worth developing:
A working knowledge of HTML
Experience with managing an online community forum
Professional blogging experience
Some graphic design knowledge, including InDesign
Digital Photography and PhotoShop
Video production and editing (in this era of free commercials via YouTube)
Digital audio recording and podcasting
And above all, you have to love it. Also, it doesn't hurt to marry well, too, just in case (sorry, couldn’t help myself).
If you have more tips for landing a journalism job, please share here.