As young journalists, we are entering a world that is seeing some significant changes. Your teachers constantly spoke of it in college and, if you have an internship or a job with a publication right now, you definitely hear it from some of the older staff members. At my internship, I sit next to a layout designer who has been at the publication for over a decade; he always tells me how “hushed” the office is these days due to recent layoffs and budget cuts.
These types of stories aren’t very encouraging for those who are trying to pursue a career in the field. Sometimes you wonder, “Is it even possible at this point?” For me, this remains to be seen. But, through my work thus far in journalism, I have discovered that in order to give yourself a chance, you must be able to do a little bit of everything.
Now, although being a reporter and having multimedia skills, such as being able to take pictures and videos, is very useful these days in the newsroom, I’m talking more specifically about possessing the ability to be a multifaceted writer. The days of writing on one specific beat, unless you’re special, are pretty much over. You have to be willing to write about anything — even if it doesn’t interest you.
I’ve worked at three different publications, and each writer — aside from a few — covers a variety of beats. The music editor covers political debates; the news reporter does food reviews; the sports writer covers the ballet. That’s how most publications work these days.
So, you must be very open minded. And, you need to attain the skills to write both a hard news piece and a detail-rich commentary on the newest Ryan Gosling movie. Sound tough? Well, it sort of is. But, there’s definitely a plus side to it: You’re often introduced to a subject that you think won’t be interesting, and it’ll turn out to be fascinating. I wrote about medical waste management last week, for example — exciting, right? Well, it turns out there’s a new machine that turns syringes and other medical material into a paper-like confetti that’s recyclable. I thought that was pretty cool.
Plus, there’s a satisfying feeling to be had when you know you’re able to take on pretty much anything the editor throws your way. I haven’t quite reached this point yet, but I look forward to getting there one day. For now, I try to take on as many different assignments as I can.