We have reached 18 months since I first launched the Telling The Story web site.
Among the many highlights for me has been the opportunity to reach and inspire younger journalists, particularly those in college.
With that in mind, and with most college students heading back to school over the next few weeks, I wanted to use this space this week to offer a collection of posts that have focused most directly on aspiring journalists in college:
Ten years later: what I learned (and didn’t learn) in J-school: “Maybe I needed ten years to understand the importance of those four years at Medill. For so long I wondered why Northwestern had not better prepared me for the “real world” of journalism. But here’s the thing: the only place to truly learn those “real world” skills is the real world. And like it or not, you learn those skills very quickly when you start your career.
Instead, my professors and leaders at Northwestern focused on teaching what I would not automatically learn as a professional. Through everything mentioned above, they ingrained in me a sense of the tradition and power of journalism. What we do is important. What we do is valued. What we do is a time-honored touchstone of society. These may sound like bromides or motivational ploys, but I believe them to be critical. Journalism is always changing, but journalists must always remember the importance of what we do.”
Advice from professors: what college journalism students need to know (Part 1): “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.”
The toughest question to answer for college journalists: “College, after all, is a truly exceptional time. For all the tuition fees and social pressures, college is the one time in a person’s life where they are exposed to seemingly innumerable options. Students can take classes from a wide range of subjects and learn from an industry’s brightest minds; they can take part in extra-curricular activities that are far less available and convenient in the adult world; they can also grow and learn from hundreds, if not thousands, of their peers.
With all that in mind, college is not the time to limit oneself.
Especially if you want to be a journalist.
Any communications job will make towering demands on a person’s time and energy. I absolutely believe in the importance of putting full effort into one’s job and going beyond the call to do it well.
But I also believe in the importance of a life well lived and never regretted. Aspiring journalists — and current journalists — need to actively and constantly monitor where they stand on that balance.”
PODCAST: Rachel Hamburg, Stanford Storytelling Project: “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.”
Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Leave a comment below or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.