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DEAR READER: Now hiring: newspapers

Friday, September 3, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:50 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 6, 2010

Dear Reader,

Nate Birt is the news and online editor of the Boonville Daily News.  Katie Fretland works for the Chicago News Cooperative. Matt Harris is a reporter in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

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You saw their bylines in the Missourian not so long ago.

Derek Kravitz and Allison Ross report from Post to Post. He’s covering Dulles and Reagan National airports, among other things, for The Washington Post, while she is writing about business at the Palm Beach newspaper.

In ’07, they were covering crime and faith beats right here in Columbia.

I found out about dozens more former Missourian-ites from a list compiled by Missouri School of Journalism Associate Dean Brian Brooks.

The headline: An overwhelming number of journalism graduates are working in journalism.

Of the 62 '08 graduates who emphasized in newspaper journalism:

•    Five people couldn’t be tracked down.

•    Six were still students, in law or other advanced studies.

•    One was a Vista volunteer.

•    Eight worked in other fields: high school teacher, publicity coordinator, law clerk.

That leaves 42 graduates making their livings as reporters and copy editors, as designers and Web producers.

(The picture is similarly bright for graduates in strategic communications, photojournalism, magazine and broadcast areas.)

I know – that’s the way it’s supposed to work, right?

But ask Brooks one of the most common questions he gets from prospective students and their parents, and you’ll hear a different story.

When the topic of the newspaper comes up, the response goes something like this: "But I thought newspapers are dying. Why would I want my daughter/son to be in a career that is?"

Tell people you work for a newspaper, and it’s like they’re suddenly at a wake: Condolences offered in soft tones. I haven’t been hugged yet, or patted on the back, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Newspapers, narrowly defined as a print product thrown on your doorstep, have been struggling. There’s no doubt.

But newspapers, defined more broadly as a source for information and conversation, will be around for a long, long time in many formats (including print).

Lindsay Wilkes-Edrington is on the ’07-08 graduates list. She left MU for a job at Patch.com, which this month announced the start-up of its 100th online community newspaper.

Editors at Patch cover council meetings and elections, write features, make Twitter posts about interesting news of the day, hire freelancers and edit their work, take in reader-submitted photos and articles – all the things I did at a small weekly newspaper a few decades ago.

There are plans for 500 more Patch-owned community newspapers by year’s end.  In February 2009 there were three.

Does that sound like a dying industry to you?


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Comments

liz manring September 3, 2010 | 1:48 p.m.

yay print journalism!

i'm only slightly upset with you for not mentioning me by name, tom. :). just kidding! keep up the good work, folks.

(Report Comment)
Rachel Kaufman September 3, 2010 | 2:10 p.m.

Tom-
I am a 2008 News Ed graduate, and while I think this column is great and I wouldn't change my J-School experience at all, I think there are a few things that need to be touched upon:

-How long did it take these graduates to find a job?

-Do they make enough to sustain themselves? Pay back loans? Pay bills? Not live at home?

-How many have to take out second or third jobs, because while newspapers are hiring, many don’t pay well; and some don’t even pay at all

-How many of these graduates have suffered through unpaid “jobs”, furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts since starting?

-What about the class of 2009? 2010? How many of them have journalism jobs and can sustain themselves on their salary?

I think these are the fears that parents have. Not so much “will my student find a job”, but more along the lines of “how long will I be supporting my kid financially after they graduate.” I don’t think students need to be discouraged from enrolling in the J-School, but I do think that you need to be more transparent and address the legitimate concerns that parents and newly enrolled students have about the industry.

(Report Comment)
Tom Warhover September 3, 2010 | 3:15 p.m.

I don't have the answers to all those questions, Rachel. And I don't think I meant to suggest that everything is wine and roses (or even beer and peanuts) immediately upon graduation. But the list of your colleagues' fates suggests there might be something between "everything is falling apart" and "go to j-school and win the lottery."

I get hear more of the former from parents these days.

All anecdotal, to be sure.

(Report Comment)
Jim Gibbons September 3, 2010 | 3:51 p.m.

Oh no! I'm a publicity coordinator! EPIC FAIL!

But seriously, this is fantastic news! I'm glad so many people I shared the newsroom with are still proud members of the fourth estate!

(And, if it's heartening to prospective journalism students, I was writing and editing at a pop culture magazine and its Web site before making the switch to PR—a job I landed coming right out of, and thanks to my experience in, the Missourian newsroom.)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith September 3, 2010 | 4:39 p.m.

There's one law that neither Congress nor the legislatures of the 50 states will ever succeed in repealing: the law of supply and demand. Even with near double digit unemployment there are presently jobs waiting for someone to fill them, and it's doubtful that will change any time soon. Some of the jobs require at least a bachelor's degree, others do not.

My other comment is this. I realize this is a newspaper, so there's an emphasis on print journalism, but does a Journalism degree only qualify one to work as a Journalist?
The question would seem to answer itself.

(Report Comment)
Taylor Combs September 4, 2010 | 7:19 p.m.

I would be curious to see the stats on the other sequences. Even thought I've spent some time in the Missourian newsroom, I'm magazine. Is the information available on the J-schools website or was this a top secret e-mail?

(Report Comment)
Tom Warhover September 5, 2010 | 8:07 a.m.

It was top secret, Taylor. (No, not really.) I'll see what we can do about adding it as a document linked to this column.

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock September 6, 2010 | 11:51 a.m.

For those interested in seeing where the class of 2007-08 is now, click on this link for the full list:

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/multim...

Thanks,

Jake Sherlock
Opinion Editor

(Report Comment)
Isabelle Roughol September 6, 2010 | 1:28 p.m.

hehe "foreign desk editor", that makes me sound way more important than I am. I'm AN editor, not THE editor. But I do have a very good job in a major newsroom that enables me to comfortably pay rent and (massive) student loans.
It was either a reputable business school or Mizzou J-school, and I never regretted my choice. Nothing like having a great career I love. My Missourian experience was a major point in getting my current job.
That said, many of my class (myself included) are still lining up fairly short term contracts, internships, freelance gigs... It's not always comfortable, but still worth it.

(Report Comment)
John Grady September 9, 2010 | 7:59 p.m.

Although some jobs exist for print grads, I know a lot of good journalists from 2007-08 who have been laid off and have been unable to find jobs within journalism. The current market is not exactly rife with opportunities, and they've been forced to tend bar, wait tables and answer phones.

(Report Comment)

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