about this sitesee Meranda's resumesee clips and work sampleskeep in touch

Archive for January 21st, 2007

Why I shouldn’t have worried so much about finding a job

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

Reflections on Mindy McAdams’ post on how j-school grads don’t get it.

As a prospective student looking at Kent State I attended a scholarship competition that included a luncheon with a member of the faculty. I enthusiastically told him I was interested in online journalism. Even today I remember his response as if it came 10 seconds ago, “If you want to write for the Web, you should do the electronic media track, radio.” I scoffed and told my mother as we drove home that afternoon that he was crazy.

Four years later, that’s probably the best advice I ever ignored. It came from a professor who went on to be one of my mentors, though I doubt he remembers ever saying it, and in hindsight I’m sure he, too, is glad I didn’t take it. I wouldn’t be half the journalist I am today if I had.

Still, any of my friends or professors can tell you that last fall I preceded just about every discussion of my pending graduation with the caveat, “If I find a job…”

It’s not that I wasn’t prepared. (See my previous post.) I was. More than prepared. Willing to do anything in journalism. Willing to move anywhere. Willing to learn anything an editor asked me to. My resume was solid; short of a major metro internship, I don’t know how I could have improved it. I knew HTML and CSS and could shoot photos and edit video. My Photoshop skills rivaled and in many ways surpassed my photo-j peers. I was implementing convergence in the newsroom I presided over. To top it off, I was a reporter with solid writing and editing skills, as well as interviewing and research adeptness. There was only one skill I left j-school wishing I’d had time to learn better and that was Flash, and even there I knew more than most.

But I’m from Akron, where the newspaper I grew up reading and loving was sold, bought and sold again this year before having a fourth of its newsroom gutted. Plus, let’s admit it, reading Romenesko is depressing. Not only was I entering a competitive job market in a field undergoing a transformation, but also every day it seemed I would be competing with a dozen or more newly unemployed people who had the one thing I didn’t: experience. The odds seemed stacked against me.

Then I had a breakthrough. In November I went to a job fair. I attended discussions where I heard what my j-school counterparts were (or in many cases weren’t) learning. I interviewed with editor after editor, each receptive to my skills and ideas. They, several of whom I had contact with since, saw the potential that even I didn’t. They helped me realize what I couldn’t have known without talking to editors actually in the field: I got it. Apparently, too many of my peers didn’t. I was the prototypical new j-school grad, or as one editor later told me after a job interview, “the most prepared recent graduate for today’s job market” he’d ever seen.

That confidence helped carry me through the final month of school with minimal “if I find a job” talk. It also helped me score several interviews and land my once unfathomable first job before my degree was even two weeks old.

I don’t know where the students McAdams discusses are coming from, but I do know it’s not from my school. Because even the professor who once looked at Web journalism as a novelty, easily pushed to the side of the curriculum, has come around. He, too, gets it.

I agree with everything she says students need to learn. But I realize what many of those students don’t: even with a degree and a job, I still have so much learning to do. That’s what makes the future exciting.

Other things worth reading: What Rob Curley, whose speech at KSU last spring probably sealed the deal on online journalism for me, thinks students should know (also his thoughts here).

13 things they wish they’d learned in college — that somehow I did

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

I saw this post on Lifehacker that referred to a post at NextPath: “13 Things I Wish I Learned In College.” I was intrigued. As a recent college grad, obviously I’m encountering things in the “real world” I never knew or thought to ask about before… But not many.

(OK, number 12 and 13 on the list weren’t covered in my classes or in my work at the paper. But I did cultivate a strong enough relationship with my professors that I know I could call them up and they’d give me their honest advice.)

I have always felt I was prepared for life after graduation. Although I took my “studies” seriously and performed well in the classroom, performing on cue skills like writing a 15-page term paper the night before it was due, B.S.ing an essay question and cramming for a 150 question multiple-choice test the morning of, I also learned the practical skills that you actually need beyond the hallowed halls of higher education.

I realize that my major was in many ways far more practical-based than most. For one thing, from day one of college I was interviewing and writing stories. Day one. That was a trend that only continued as the classes became more intense, and I learned to juggle my life as a student with my life as a reporter and editor at the student newspaper. (Personally, it wasn’t so much juggling as acquiescing that as much as I’d rather focus on being a better reporter, I was in fact at college to get a degree, and to get that degree sitting through Microeconomics and Cultural Anthropology was a necessity.)

My DKS peers and I often joked when we saw kids just hanging out in the student center or sledding on Blanket Hill that we wondered what it was like to “be a normal college student.” But, I guess, if not feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for my chosen profession, as many of the commentors on those posts say they were, was a trade off, I’m glad it’s one I chose to take. Granted I come across things that I may not have done before (especially as I’m beginning a new job), but I definitely have the skills and background to figure them out and the backbone to ask for help when I need it.

I guess it goes back to what I said all along, college is what you make of it.

Racial stereotypes ≠ funny

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

I don’t know if we’ll ever learn that some things, race in this case, shouldn’t be satirized.

I just saw a story on the AP wire about the Princeton student newspaper publishing a satire column poking fun at Asian stereotypes.

Oh boy. Having personal experience with the sensitivity race brings to the table, especially in opinion pieces, especially when you’re trying to be funny, I can say I’m glad it wasn’t me. But I wish we could learn from each other’s mistakes. The editor is quoted:

“Using hyperbole and an unbelievable string of stereotypes, we hoped to lampoon racism by showing it at its most outrageous,” the note said. “We embraced racist language in order to strangle it. At its worst, the column was a bad joke; at its best, it provoked serious thought about issues of race, fairness and diversity.”

For background, in Fall 2004 a column was printed in the DKS basically poking fun at black stereotypes and repeatedly using a derivative of the n-word in an attempt — and knowing the writer, who is also a stand-up comedian if that tells you anything, I believe it was very much his intent — to get the conversation about those stereotypes started.

It got the conversation started all right. It got the conversation attention in the local media. It got the conversation rolling with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. It even got the conversation going over at Romenesko.

And what I and my fellow journalists learned as we sat on the couch in the Stater newsroom discussing it the next day was that we didn’t get it. The conversations about the potential reaction that should have taken place before it was published instead took place after. We talked a lot about our own reactions and experiences, about what our other friends and professors were saying and what the other media outlets and our professors thought. We learned from it and became a more sensitive news organization because of it.

Just wish it was a lesson we could pass along to anyone else who, like the Princeton paper, didn’t get to partake in our too-little, too-late conversation that fall.