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Preparing for a career in journalism while the industry is changing

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Throughout the year and a half I’ve spent at university doing my journalism degree, one thing has stayed constant. Our lecturers make no attempt at hiding the fact that journalists will not earn much during their career – unless you’re one of the minuscule percent at the top of the ladder. We all want to be the next Greg James, Piers Morgan (perhaps a friendlier equivalent) or thereabouts, but unless you’ve got the whole package and something unique on top, it’s difficult to pay your way through a journalism career without doing something else on the side.

Get the skills

The best way to get yourself up there is to learn a wide range of skills to benefit you in the industry. It’s no secret that everything is changing over the next few years, with a huge majority of journalism now based online or through free papers. Only in the last decade has journalism been featured on tablets and mobile devices, and this is only going to grow with time. Some journalism students may feel threatened by all these new aspects of the job, and may feel like they should specialise in one area, but the trick is to do the opposite.

Journalism degrees

Most journalism degrees nowadays have realised this and target their courses to offer a wide range of skills. My degree, at The University of Sheffield, has modules in radio, broadcast, print and online journalism. I am halfway through my degree now, and I’ve learnt how to put together a radio package, how to record, capture and edit decent material for TV and how to write in various different ways for different audiences. I am able to do basic coding, shorthand and I have knowledge of media law. All of these skills together will hopefully land me with a good journalism based job by the time I graduate, because I haven’t just focused on one particular element of the career.

Coping with change

Students who are worried about falling behind while the industry is changing so quickly – fret not. As a young person, students nowadays already have the background knowledge for social media, portable devices and all the other up and coming methods of spreading journalism. Older generations are more behind and are the ones who will have to keep up with new methods, so in that sense, our generation already have the upper hand. The best bet for exceeding in the industry is to show you’ve got experience in these different areas.

Try something different

Even if you’re already 100 percent sure which part of the journalism world you want to go into, it’s always worth shopping around a bit in terms of experience just to see if there’s anything else you like too. Worst comes to worst, you won’t enjoy it, and you can pass it off as a learning curve. The best outcome would be finding a niche you really enjoy, and being able to either coin that with your first preference or developing skills for both areas – it’s never going to be a downfall on your application if you can show you’re really knowledgeable about two diverse areas.

It is hard to predict how the industry will change over the next few years, but by paying attention and working hard, there is no reason why students or young journalists should feel swallowed up by these developments. Instead, target your fears into finding different, unique areas to dip your toe into, to show you’ve got the motivation and interest to succeed.

Do you have any tips on how to compete in the journalism industry? Let us know in the comments below. 

Photo: Crowd Expedition / Flickr

Georgie DarlingPreparing for a career in journalism while the industry is changing

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