You may have heard or read this before, but it’s good advice from Professor David Hazinski and well worth repeating. I’ve added a few of my own comments in parentheses.
- If it goes on a resume, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Spend too much time on your fraternity or sorority or drinking, and you won’t be spending it on things that can get you hired. The other reality is that a job or volunteer work will count on a resume even if it isn’t journalism related because it shows you’re well rounded. But you’re no longer shooting for the high school yearbook list of clubs you’ve participated in. You’re trying to show someone you can work for them and contribute to their organization and you have the background to do it.
- Speaking of background, get as much of it as possible in civics, business, politics, the arts and science. Pay attention to those other classes. They count. You will be reporting on those things.
- Attend everything. FIND conferences and workshops, and attend anything that can get you contacts and context. Join professional organizations such as the Radio Television Digital News Directors Association, National Press Photographers Association, Society of Professional Journalists/Online News Association, Asian American Journalists, National Association of Black Journalists. Go to their events. And don’t just go. Go up to people, introduce yourself, find out who they are and what they do. This is not a profession for the bashful.
- Start reporting right now. You want to be a sports reporter? OK, start a blog and report. Get an interview with the Kobe Bryant of Georgia or whomever you think is cool. Build a web page, start that blog or a Twitter account in what you want to report on and just start. You’ll develop skills along the way but it will give you context and focus. If you don’t know how to do these things, learn them yourself or ask us. But start. Do not wait.
- Don’t make excuses. Eliminate “my bad” from your vocabulary. It’s a cute way to absolve yourself of stupidity. Get it done right on time. Start acting like a professional now.
- Start REALLY watching and reading news. I am constantly amazed that students who want to go into journalism don’t watch it or read it. Look for content. I will force you to do this, but you should be doing it yourself. (I would add that you should check out a wide variety of news sources, not just major networks and the Atlanta TV stations. Check out everything from smaller stations to non-commercial media such as NPR and PBS, as well as investigative reporting sites such as The Center for Public Integrity, and ProPublica, which have won numerous journalism awards. These are all potential employers!)
- Find out what you might be doing for a living. Take a CNN tour, worm your way into your local TV station for a day, ask the folks who put out the local newspaper and web page to show you how. If you made a decision to choose this as a major because you think you want to be on TV, then you have made a decision for the wrong reason. Find out what folks do for a living. It will provide great motivation and direction for you, even if it leads to changing your major.
- Don’t expect to work for ESPN or WSB as they are now. Because they won’t be by the time you get enough skills and experience to get there. TV news, magazines and newspapers aren’t going away…. but they definitely are becoming different animals. Expect that change, because it’s already well underway. Concentrate instead on giving yourself skills that translate across platforms. Give yourself knowledge and expertise. Then you can get hired wherever it ends up.
- Most of the stuff you learn here will count, so learn it. The list includes include thinking on your feet, writing clearly, finding stories, performing responsibly without excuses, and getting along and getting information out of people.
- Learn ALL mechanical skills. How to blog, Twitter, shoot video, record sound, edit video. You don’t have to know the history of blogging or the finest points of editing. You do need to know how to set up a blog and edit professionally.
This is an age of great media change… and thus great opportunity. To take advantage of it, equip yourself. Start now.