My Advice for Journalists

journalism schoolSince my co-worker Clay Duda told his story about being a j-school grad, I thought I’d tell mine and hopefully help some people figure out how to become a journalist—a real one.

Hint: it’s not easy, but it’s possible.

Before I fell in love with journalism, I loved writing. Last May marked two years since I received my undergraduate degree in journalism (with certificates in creative writing and new media.) Like Clay talked about in his j-school grad story, I dreamed of a gig at the New York Times. But I wasn’t set on a traditional journalism job from the start. I knew plenty of fellow grads who were unemployed or had switched careers entirely. No matter what, I knew didn’t want to end up under my parent’s roof. Not because I didn’t want to see them daily but because I always want my life to move forward.

I specialized in magazines, but I also worked for the school’s newspaper and magazine, as well as completing several media internships. Still, I didn’t really know exactly how people got jobs in journalism. I didn’t know how I’d get somewhere; I simply knew I wanted to write. If I were good enough and worked hard enough, I figured I’d get somewhere.

When I graduated in 2009, I already had a job lined-up. Actually, the job began as a internship but then transitioned into full-time after a few months. My boss owned four companies, ranging from a music production company to a grant writing company. I worked for them all as a communications director and did a wide range of tasks, from writing web copy to managing social media accounts. Gradually, I fell in love with social media and realized it had a lot of potential, more than talking about what everyone ate for lunch. But after awhile, I knew I wanted more from a job.

So I moved to Atlanta where I figured I’d at least find more freelancing opportunities. I started waiting tables, and then I got a job working as an online community manager for a real estate company. This job had nothing to do with journalism. I knew this going into it, but it involved writing and social media and honestly I had no idea what to expect.

Although we wrote thousands of words per day, few of my co-workers had backgrounds in writing. During my lunch breaks, I would often interview people and work on stories for a culture blog that I wrote for at the time. After writing hundreds of blog posts—about 10 per day—I became a better blogger. In his famous words about storytelling, Ira Glass says you have to produce a lot of work to get better. And Malcolm Gladwell wrote about people needing to do 10,000 hours of something to get good at it. I wrote so much and always wrote thinking that someone important would read my writing, even though I knew it would slip away into the mass of words that make up the Internet. When you’re writing (or doing whatever work you do) everyday and trying hard, you will get better.

Of course, working at such an insane pace involving things you don’t care about is not sustainable, so I quit my second job in two years. Soon after, I got this job working part-time. I worked for a while as an editor and writer of a local culture publication. Now, I’m also doing freelance work.

Here’s something you should know and believe… journalism will survive. I think it’s important to remember that most people don’t think about “Journalism.” They think about the information they need, how it affects and engages them and who they trust to give them the information they need and want. People will always need information, and even though many more people are producing content, trusting people to provide good, ethical content is only going to become more important. Journalism school teaches a lot of useful skills, such as critical thinking and ethical decision making, that can be used for a variety of things. Even if you don’t become a Journalist—and you still can—you can make it. You have to find what inspires you and grow it.

Read the rest of this post, including 20 tips for journos on The Center for Sustainable Journalism blog.

Lindsay Oberst is a writer, journalist and editor. She writes about arts, culture, design, literary, digital media, technology, social good, health, business, marketing and sustainability. She also writes fiction and poetry.

Find her on Twitter @LindsayOWrite and @LindsayOAtlanta.
She’s on Facebook and Google Plus, too.

3 CommentsLeave a Comment

  1. Nesma says:

    hey Lindsay , I’m Nesma and I’m journalism student .I want to thank you very much about your great article and your helpful tips , and may i ask you a question : you said that you love writing.. but i want to know what’s type of writing . and is that necessary to love writing to become a journalist?

  2. Lindsay Oberst says:

    Thank you, Nesma, for your comment and question. First of all, not all journalists are writers although all of them probably write at least a little bit. Journalism is a very hard field so in order to survive, I think you have to love something about it to survive. Do you have to love writing? Perhaps not, but I don’t think you could hate writing and be a journalist unless you developed a liking for it, I suppose. Maybe you love people and interviewing and researching, but your least favorite part is putting it all together. You’re still good at it, but you prefer the other parts of the equation. I hope my thoughts help, and good look figuring out the direction you take. Develop passions and interests and figure things out on your own.

  3. Rabia says:

    hi lindsay you are really a true inspiration for all the youth around the world.keep it up we all love you 🙂

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