It's time to ramble on…

The thoughts of a young journalist in southeastern Michigan

A major difference

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When I began at Central Michigan University in 2006, all I knew was that I wanted to be a sports journalist. I loved writing, I loved sports, what’s better than combining the two?

But I soon found out that narrow goal wouldn’t allow me to become a multi-faceted journalist as the job field is currently demanding. I began on the news desk (sports was already all filled) and starting writing immediately. The first three stories I wrote were about politics, Mount Pleasant’s downtown business district and wireless Internet. It was quite the wake up call that I would need to learn as much as possible to stay ahead.

Over the last few years, the skill set a young journalist needs continues to grow to just more than writing and shooting photos. While I am still learning all the different skills needed, here is a sample of some of the things I’ve found that are helpful in today’s journalistic world:

1. Don’t limit your reporting to one area

While beat reporting is crucial and a great skill to show a potential employer, if you only know how to cover city commission meetings, how are you supposed to find that great feature story, or analyze a university’s operating budget? Limiting yourself to one category of reporting can be a real dagger, because in the real world, you will cover a wide range of topics.

And that doesn’t just include on the news desk. Go over to the sports desk and see if the sports editor has any general assignment stories that could be covered; hit up the entertainment editor for any assignments. A wide range of clips will only better your shot of getting employed after graduation.

2. Don’t stick to only writing

If you have the equipment (and the skill), try your hand at shooting some photos. Even if they don’t get published in a publication, they may be a great addition to a Web site or blog of yours that you can list on your resume. If you can write and shoot, chances are you can be trusted to cover something on the writing and visual side.

Create and design documents using design software as well. This may be tougher, as most design software is quite expensive. But if your college’s computer lab offers the programs, utilize them as much as possible. Several people I know use Adobe InDesign to create a more dynamic resume, one that will make theirs pop out from others.

One area I have gotten heavily involved with is video. This is a great way to combine broadcast and traditional journalism to create a news video. Cameras are not that expensive, and is a great way to learn video editing (The only downside is the best video editing software can be pricey. See if your newspaper has a computer with sophisticated video editing software).

3. Learn how to utilize the Internet

This is the major change I didn’t expect when I arrived at college. Even though print products are still around, it has become more important for journalists to use the Internet. And it’s not just posting stories online as quick as possible (which has given way to the phrase, “there’s a deadline every minute”), it’s using the Internet to get the news out in other ways. Blogs have skyrocketed in popularity, and definitely have their place in the information busines. But Flash animations, Soundslides presentations and  Web site construction have surged in the means of conveying information.

As the online editor at Central Michigan Life, I have had to learn the basics when it comes to HTML coding. I’ve been able to toy around and create landing pages for CM Life, and more companies are making it easier to use and embed coding into sites. You don’t have to know a lot about coding to begin using it efficiently.

4. Keep an open mind and learn whenever you can.

This is the most important thing a young journalist can do. It was the thing I learned when I began working at CM Life, and it has helped me learn much more than what I expected in the four years I’ve been here. An open mind helps a journalist clear through the bias of a story, and it can help with making you stand out among other student journalists looking for employment after graduation.

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Written by David Veselenak

February 14, 2010 at 1:50 am

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