Changing job market scary for journalism students

By SANDY FLOREZ
School of Communication
University of Miami

Once upon a time, journalism students across the country knew what to expect after graduation. Newly minted journalists could count on a steady income, a steady onslaught of deadlines, and crammed newsrooms.

Today, graduates are taking unpaid internships, blogging and waiting at home.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 24.4 percent of college students who apply for jobs can expect to have a job ready for them upon graduation. That leaves about 76 percent with one question:

What now?

UM Journalism professor Ileana Oroza agrees that the job market is tough.

“I think there are opportunities for young people, although maybe not in the traditional newsroom jobs. The world of journalism is being reinvented; it could be very exciting, if a little scary. I think there are opportunities for young people, although maybe not in the traditional newsroom jobs, “ said Oroza.

In fact, the numbers are particularly scary for recent journalism graduates. In 2010 alone, a news report by the University of Georgia indicated that more than 2,700 of its 2009 journalism and mass communication students found the lowest level of full-time employment after graduation in the program’s 24-year history.

In a study the year before, the report showed that four out of 10 journalism graduates were unable to find journalism jobs six to eight months after graduation.

UM Print Journalism student Claudia D’Elia gives broadcasting a try as a she reports on a segment for UMTV (Photo courtesy of Claudia D’Elia).

At the highly regarded University of Missouri, the trend followed in reports that indicated that just 53 percent of its School of Journalism students found a job after graduation in 2010.

“Being a good writer doesn’t cut it anymore,” said Clauda D’Elia, a print journalism senior at the University of Miami. “Now, you just have to be lucky. Or know someone. The idea I once had about journalism was running into the newsroom on deadline and it would be exciting. But the reality is more that I will be at home working from a computer for someone I don’t know.”

She’s right. It is no secret the business of journalism has been changing rapidly during the past decade; with students attending countless seminars telling them their generation is in charge of finding a new working model. But with no real solutions in place yet, students who decided to pursue their studies in the field feel they have few options other than starting at the very bottom of the job market food chain: unpaid internships.

A good example of the evolving journalism job market is a recent announcement by UM’s School of Communication newsletter, in which it proudly announced that two communication students were selected for competitive internship positions at the Sun-Sentinel and The Miami Herald. Although an impressive feat, just a few years ago it probably wouldn’t be considered news.

Niurka Sosa, a production coordinator at Univision, the largest Spanish language television network in the country, is in charge of scouting for interns throughout the year. She says that recent journalism graduates from Florida International University, Miami-Dade College, University of Miami and other similar universities are applying more and more for their unpaid internship positions.

“We interview very talented and impressive young student journalists who cannot find jobs in what they always imagined they were going to do,” said Sosa. “They come to networks like us to not waste time and gain experience while they wait.”

But not all hope is lost. The Internet appears to be the most popular medium to which recent journalism graduates  look for employment or to be their own bosses. In fact, if you want to have a better shot in the competitive market, you might want to use your time waiting for your dream job by maintaining a blog, posting on Twitter or building an online resume.

UM SOC grad and Univision Producer, Lorena Taboas, works on editing a segment for her weekly public affairs program (Photo by Sandy Florez).

A recent survey from Middleberg Communications and the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR), reported that 70 percent of journalists said they use social networks to assist in reporting compared to 41 percent last year.

“Having an online presence is key. It is important to show interest in writing and reporting even if you aren’t getting paid for it. Employers will be more impressed by an active blog than stagnant news clips from a year ago,” said Sosa.

That is how Lorena Taboas, a UM School of Communciation 2008 graduate, first got her foot in the door at Univision. After a proving herself during a yearlong internship in 2008, Taboas was recently hired full-time as aproducer for weekly local public affairs program.

“It has not been easy. After my internship I floated around in different jobs until the timing was right and I was offered this position,” said Taboas, 25. “There aren’t that many opportunities in the journalism world but you have to be patient if you really want it.”

During a lecture to his News and Ethics Seminar, a class primarily made up of journalism seniors; UM Journalism Program Director Sam Terilli gave the room of nervous students a valuable piece of advice about graduating into the world of journalism.

“You have to be dynamic. Can you shoot video? Can you use a high-tech camera? Are you Internet savvy? That will give you the edge. If they are good, someone will notice,” Terilli stated.

 

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