The challenge facing young journalists? Being agile

Where will I be working next month? Where will I be working next year? What’s the best platform for this story? How do I learn video storytelling?

These questions speak to one of the biggest challenges facing young journalists today: the need to be agile.

A quick bit of context: I’m writing this to participate in a blog ring of young journalists. This month’s topic relates to the challenges facing young journalists. I’ve been a working journalist for just about three years. And in that time I’ve observed that staying in this field for very long will require flexibility.

As someone else noted, a good attitude will give you a foundation. I want this post to be constructive, not discouraging, so I’m linking to resources that can help you become agile in terms of…

Who pays the bills

The days of steadily climbing the ladder of small-sized, medium-sized and metro daily newspapers are over. Extend the rule to your medium of choice. Amid thousands of layoffs at newspapers, we must be ready to reapply elsewhere. As one person noted, this could mean looking outside the mainstream media. We must consider peddling our skills to Web-only products and other mediums or making a go as a freelancer. I consider it telling that there’s a board at the newly minted Twenty Something Journalist forums dedicated to freelancing.

Yes, this means uncertainty. But thinking broadly about jobs will help you get work, which will get experience. And if you’re new to any career, experience is how build future job opportunities. Experience also helps you learn new skills.

The skills we need

So you can edit words. Can you cut audio and video? You write a mean lead. Can you write a Web headline that’s search-engine friendly? You can do all that. Can you mash up data, words and pictures to map your story?

If you can, great. Now get ready to rewrite the rulebook in a year. Maybe less. It’s imperative to see where things are going and learn the necessary skills to ride along. As others have recently noted, teaching yourself can be onerous. But sometimes you just have to suck it up and try.

You’ve got resources:

  • Stay networked. You already have an accounts on Facebook or MySpace. Try Wired Journalists as well. Or any of these. Interact with the people you meet to get your name out there.
  • Journerdism has the granddaddy of link collections to help you start/build/save your career.
  • There are great free skill-based tutorials out there on the Web, from mapping to learning basic web programming.
  • If you need to learn a specific piece of software quickly, you can cough up $25 for a month’s access to the deep video training libraries at Lynda.com.
  • If you’re reading this, you probably have a blog. Consider that your sandbox. Buy your own domain and pay for hosting (I use Dreamhost and like it). Customize your template and plugins. Add pages to practice some basic coding. And blog about what you’re learning to help others like you.

2 thoughts on “The challenge facing young journalists? Being agile”

  1. Great post Andrew

    The one thing young journalists need to understand is that even in bad times there is opportunity. Newsrooms are changing fast. I have a job–multimedia coordinator–that was practically unheard of four years ago. I have it because I took the time to invest in myself and not wait for someone else to train me. The journalists, young and old, that will survive and thrive in the coming years will be the ones willing to embrace change. Bottom line: Learn a skill set—anyway you can–that will make you indispensable to your employer.

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