Survival of the fittest

Meghan Parmentier

With major media corporations like ESPN instituting hiring freezes and still expecting cuts within the next year, assistant professor of journalism Richard Hanley says the outlook for graduating communication students is not as bleak as it seems.

“The outlook for communications majors graduating this spring isn’t as grim as the larger employment statistics suggest,” Hanley said. “But, without question, there have been better times to join professional media.”

Newsrooms across the country may be suffering from buyouts and layoffs, but online opportunities are expanding. As daily news continues to shift to the Internet, journalism students are expected to be able to write for print, broadcast and the Web.

“The distinction among distribution platforms such as television and print will increasingly become irrelevant as more and more citizens prefer to become informed via digital media,” Hanley said. “But the principles and practices associated with each are timeless and have ready and in-demand application for online news. Print journalism majors can succeed as long as they understand that some basic level of technical proficiency and conceptual understanding of online news will provide the competitive edge when launching careers.

Good reporting and writing remain the essential tools of journalism, so print journalism majors are well-positioned to thrive in an online environment with that layer of basic technical training in place.”

“Convergence” has become the buzzword for modern journalism, as journalists must have experience in all areas of media–from print to video.

“Students need to acquire either on their own or through specific course work the differences between legacy print and broadcast media and online media,” Hanley said. “The students who are landing jobs know how to write, to report, how to shoot and edit video, know how to blog within a professional context and to understand conceptually at least that social networking sites such as Facebook hold vast potential for completing the transition of news from legacy platforms such as print and broadcast to online. In other words, students need to think that news is no longer produced and confined to traditional platforms and that news companies are willing to try new things.”

Even though the shift from print to online has been gradual, major newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post are already reaching more customers online than in print.

“Opportunities for young professionals exist because media companies are replacing older, more expensive staff with younger, more flexible staff who bring a technological literacy for online content that professionals used to legacy models simply do not have in their experience,” Hanley said. “Our graduate journalism students are being recruited by new online media companies and for the online divisions of older firms, so the anecdotal evident from our school shows continued strength despite the generally dismal economic picture for media.”

MSN recently reported the print journalism major to be the least reasonable major due to the current economic slump. Hanley believes there are ways around it.

“I advise our students to learn something their competitors in the job market do not know and to tap into our growing network of alumni who are working in the media,” he said. “Key pieces of this strategy I urge students to follow is to be realistic about entry-level jobs and to be relentless in learning new techniques and contacting alumni. The Quinnipiac degree in Journalism gives our students two things: a first-rate education and access to our stunningly successful alumni.”

“Students also need to know that finding a job is in itself a job and should be tapping into the Quinnipiac alumni network for advice,” he said. “Studies show that it’s never the direct connection that leads to a position. It’s the secondary one, so a QU alumni may know someone else who is in position to hire. Students need to learn something very basic: if they want a job, they have to ask for one and ask for help and names of people who can help them.”

(pictures by J. Pelletier)