Journalism career outlook troubling for current students

By Taylor Rexrode
Staff Writer

The 2013 State of the Media report shows that newsrooms have cut their staff by 30 percent since 2000.

With newsrooms at their lowest capacity since 1978, journalists are worried about job prospects and many avid news consumers doubt the quality of information.

Data from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that online news has skyrocketed and print is holding steady, but fewer people are being hired in news organizations. Less than 40,000 full-time employees work in news today.

According to the report, 31 percent of Americans have stopped following news outlets because of changes in the news delivery and content.

Traffic, weather and sports have increased in coverage while human interest, crime and political stories have declined over the past seven years.

Kathleen McKinney, assistant editor of the Wacoan, said that though the changes in the news have cut down on staff, the quality of news has not changed.

“I don’t think it has affected the quality,” McKinney said. “I just think it has affected the format of it and how it’s obtained. People are going online and to television. I think it hurts local newspapers more than anything.”

However, the report cites that people are aware of a drop in high- quality news.

Of people who abandoned their traditional news organization, 61 percent noticed less thorough stories being reported.

Less people covering less news has led to less in-depth stories and, according to research, fewer enthusiastic news consumers.

With fewer consumers, the job market for newspapers, magazines and broadcast news — considered traditional news outlets — appears bleak.

The tumultuous state of the media has put pressure on many Baylor journalism students to be as competitive as possible.

Tyler senior Caitlin Giddens, co-president of the Society of Professional Journalists Baylor chapter, has had three editorial internships since coming to Baylor — Bscene Magazine in 2010, D Magazine in 2012 and London’s Eye Magazine last fall — and she has been freelancing for the Wacoan since the start of this semester.

She also worked for the Round Up yearbook as the organization’s editor her sophomore year.

“It’s been a lot more stressful than I ever realized,” Giddens said. “I’ve applied for internships and scholarships, but the job search is so much more intense and cut-throat. I have to learn how to face rejection and not hearing back from people. I can’t take it personally. I have to know I will eventually find a job.”

Andover, Kan., junior Allyssa Schoonover said she does not feel fully prepared to look for jobs in what appears to be a shrinking job market for traditional news.

“I wish I had been more aware,” Schoonover said. “I like writing and I like the field, but it makes me wish I had known the experience I needed to gain sooner. I wish between freshman and sophomore year I had interned.”

Schoonover plans to go into broadcast journalism or TV news and is a part of the Society of Professional Journalists.

While she thinks she has honed writing skills during her time at Baylor, she feels underprepared for the job search process.

“I think as far as writing, Baylor has definitely prepared me for the industry,” Schoonover said. “In how to prepare for job interviews and getting internships and getting your resume together, I feel like that isn’t as strong in the department. If they added that into the curriculum more, that would help out a lot because with fewer jobs available, we need to stand out more,” she said.

Getting internships has been difficult for her because many organizations only accept interns with previous experience.

McKinney said that the Wacoan expects published work from its interns.

She said to be competitive in the market, students shouldn’t wait to start writing.

“To be a better writer, the only thing you can do is write more,” McKinney said.

Students at Baylor don’t have to get a summer internship to start working on their portfolio.

They can get published clips through work-study opportunities with student publications or through journalism classes that publish student content in the Lariat or Focus magazine.

Dr. Marlene Neill, a lecturer in the journalism, public relations and new media department, said the department’s shift in focus — from pure writing and editing to online and social media-based skills — is meant to help produce well-rounded students ready for the industry.

“The need for journalism skills are still there, but we’re focusing more on building skills related to online journalism,” Neill said. “The challenge for us as professors is to keep our skills current so that as new technology skills emerge, we’re preparing students so that they’re qualified for the jobs of the future.”

Giddens said the journalism department does prepare students with online and social media-focused classes and the new media degree, which debuted last fall as a new journalism track, but she still feels “very alone” in her job search.

Even with the decline in journalism jobs available, Giddens expressed optimism in her choice of major.

“I’m so proud to be a journalist because it’s one of the most adaptive fields to be in,” Giddens said. “I still want to go into journalism because I’ve been lucky to have internships to show this is where I belong and this is where I thrive. Though I haven’t decided where I’m going, I think if you are educated and willing to work, there is a job out there for you.”