college

PODCAST EPISODE #10: Rachel Hamburg, Stanford Storytelling Project

Play

At the end of a lengthy and optimistic answer about how young journalists can succeed professionally, Rachel Hamburg — a 2011 Stanford graduate — took a step back.

“As a 25-year-old hoping to make a career out of this, I think it’s a little bit scary,” she said. “And it’s OK to be scared.”

Then she broke into laughter — the type that occurs when, looking at the difficult journey ahead, all you can do is laugh.

The majority of young storytellers and journalists face the challenge of channeling their enthusiasm and skills into a stable, long-lasting career. Many industries have obvious and time-honored career paths; journalism is not one of them. It is a constantly changing field where new tools and vehicles pop up almost annually.

Hamburg is off to a great start. She freelances with innovative storytelling programs like Mashcast, and she currently serves as the managing editor for the Stanford Storytelling Project, which provides storytelling training for students in any field.

She is also my guest on the tenth episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

I chose Hamburg as a guest because she represents a unique viewpoint. She produces traditional media, in a sense; the Stanford Storytelling Project team regularly delivers episodes of an hour-long, “This American Life”-style podcast called “State of the Human”. But she also has relationships with cutting-edge journalists and does not limit the power of journalism to its traditional forms. She is a new college graduate who also, through her job, advises current students.

And she does all this while trying to figure out her own future.

(more…)

PODCAST PREVIEW: Rachel Hamburg: “You have to be a hustler” as a young journalist

My favorite part of the Telling The Story podcast is the final part.

This is where my guest, young or old, offers advice and insight for young journalists entering the field.

At age 32 I consider myself somewhat in the middle — still (I hope) on the younger half of my career, but definitely far beyond the inexperienced journalist I was in college. As a result, I always enjoy the “time capsule” lessons my guests hope to impart on those who are just beginning their careers.

In this case, my guest actually is a young journalist.

Rachel Hamburg is 25 years old and barely two years removed by Stanford University. She may also wince at the idea of being called a journalist in the traditional sense; she participates in journalism, and storytelling, on very innovative and abstract levels. Currently she works as the managing editor of the Stanford Storytelling Project, a thorough and multi-platform college storytelling program in which, among other things, students produce an hour-long radio show and podcast called “State of the Human”.

The podcast is extremely impressive: almost like a college-level “This American Life”, filled with youthful sincerity and detailed attention to the individuals interviewed by the students.

I enjoyed my entire interview with Hamburg, but I specifically appreciated our back-and-forth at the end, where we reached the section about advice. She spoke about the challenges of entering this industry — and the need to which, as a young journalist, “you have to be a hustler.”

“You just have to kind of make it work these days,” she said, “and I don’t know if that’s going to change. But I still think it’s very possible — and I think there are lots of ways for it to be possible, thanks to crowd-funding and stuff like that.”

(more…)

Advice from professors: what college journalism students need to know (Part 2)

Last week I posted Part 1 of my two-part series, “Advice from professors: what college journalism students need to know“.

As I said then, of all the professors who responded to my survey, Northwestern University’s Michele Weldon and the University of Alabama’s George Daniels provided the most in-depth answers.

This week, I have printed their mostly full responses below. The professors, who cover very different subjects at their schools, talk about the state of journalism in 2013, the positive and negative trends facing the industry, and their advice for young journalists as they enter the industry.

1. The state of journalism in 2013 is _________. Why?

George Daniels, University of Alabama: The state of journalism is looking better than it was a few years ago. Thanks to people like Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos, great newspapers are being purchased and given new life. As Gannett and Belo become one and as Local TV LLC (formerly New York Times TV stations) joins Tribune, these larger groups will have a larger national footprint. This can only mean that Tribune and Gannett will be able to do more award-winning journalism reaching more eyeballs. On the radio side, National Public Radio is putting out some great work every day, launching new initiatives like its CodeSwitch Project that recently presented a golden opportunity for NPR to showcase diverse stories that would not otherwise be told.

These are all examples of journalism that is looking great, better than it does when we were only hearing about staff cutbacks and ethical lapses and lots of bad news. I’m excited about what I see and what is to come.

Michele Weldon, Northwestern University: The state of journalism in 2013 is vibrant. There are more outlets for content than ever before and an enormous audience hungry for quality stories in multiple forms. Whatever platform you want to deliver your content, whatever kinds of stories you want to tell — you can do it all if you can do it well.

(more…)

Advice from professors: what college journalism students need to know (Part 1)

A few years ago, a colleague of mine retired after nearly four decades in local TV news. He stood up at his retirement and, amidst a tearful salute to friends and family, said the following about his co-workers:

“I will miss you so much. You are caustic, sarcastic, and extremely sharp.”

He meant this all as a compliment, and everyone else in the room seemed to take it that way.

I felt a bit puzzled by it. My colleague, essentially, was honoring us for our cynicism.

Many would argue journalists need to be cynical. We need to question, probe, disbelieve, and distrust in order to investigate and uncover powerful stories.

But, I would argue — and I think my colleague would, too — journalists need to blend that cynicism with idealism.

So often, the latter disappears over time. A journalist in any medium must combat a whole host of soul-crushing negatives: the drying of industry dollars, the demand to do sensational stories, the declining value of nuance, the importance of ratings and eyeballs at almost any cost.

But deep down, one would think, most journalists begin with — and would love to uphold — a certain sense of idealism about what they can accomplish.

That idealism often gets cultivated in college.

(more…)