The Gen J Committee was kind enough to allow us to share this blog here on The SPJ Garden Center. Do you have a career or SPJ membership story you’d like to share? Please let me know!
Feature on the Fifth
By: Lynn Walsh
Like most print reporters, covering all things health and education in Moses Lake, Washington means more than just interviewing sources and meeting deadlines. For Steven Wyble it also means taking pictures and being responsible for knowing the latest news related to the county health district, area hospitals and schools for the Columbia Basin Herald, a newspaper published Monday through Friday.
Wyble is the Society of Professional Journalists Generation J “Feature on the Fifth” profile journalist for December and took some time to answer a few questions about his job, the news industry and social media.
Q: How did you get into the position?
I found the job listed online and applied. I had applied to dozens of other papers and had a few interviews, but no job offers. The editor of the Herald e-mailed me a few days after I submitted my resume and set up a phone interview. After the first interview the publisher set up a second interview and included the publisher. A few days later the publisher called back to offer me the job and I accepted.
Q: You recently joining SPJ. How are you hoping SPJ will help you professionally?
What I’m looking forward to exploring when I have time are the training resources at www.spj.org. While I learned a lot at my university, and am learning even more with my current job, I don’t think there’s anything more conducive to advancing one’s career than constantly pursuing new education and training opportunities.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a young person in this industry? How do you work to overcome it?
My biggest challenge was a lack of professional experience. I think most people learn best by repeatedly practicing a skill, and while I contributed to several student newspapers, I didn’t get as much journalism experience as I would have liked before I graduated.
That lack of experience hindered my job search. After I interviewed at one paper, the editor called to tell me I didn’t the job. I was his second choice, he said, and he’d chosen the other guy because he had more experience.
He suggested I contribute to small community newspapers to build my portfolio, so that’s what I did. I emailed a bunch of editors and told them I was a recent journalism school graduate and that I would like to contribute to their paper. Only one editor replied, and I only ended up contributing three stories. But it was enough to diversify my portfolio a bit and expand my list of professional references. I think that additional experience helped me land the job I have now.
Q: What tips do you have for someone trying to begin a career in this industry?
I would suggest being open to any possibility. I had reservations about moving to Moses Lake because it was four hours from my hometown and I wanted to be closer to my family. But working for the Herald has been an amazing learning experience. We publish a paper five days a week, so it’s a little more fast paced than working for a weekly paper, but not quite as hectic as working for a large daily paper. I feel like it’s the perfect place to start out and I would not have gained this experience if I hadn’t opened myself up to the idea of applying somewhere that would not have been my first choice.
Q: How do you feel about social media? Do you love it? Do you hate it? How do you use social media in your daily life?
I guess I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love the power of social media to facilitate long distance friendships, empower young entrepreneurs and deliver information quickly. But there’s an addictive element to social media that has the potential to adversely impact people’s lives. That doesn’t mean social media shouldn’t be embraced for its positive qualities, but people should keep in mind that there’s a dark side to it.
But as far as delivering news, I think social media is a great way to catch people’s attention. Someone may notice an article on their Facebook news feed that they would never have seen otherwise, because they didn’t think to visit the paper’s website that day. Someone may read something from a website they would never have visited at all had one of their friends not posted it on Facebook or Twitter.
Q: Why did you choose to get into the news industry?
I have always enjoyed writing and I knew I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. Journalism just seemed like a logical industry to pursue that would give me the opportunity to write for a living. I put in two years at a community college, then transferred to Eastern Washington University and dove right into their journalism program.
I was extremely nervous at first, because I was shy and didn’t think I would be able to conduct interviews. I constantly second-guessed my decision to major in journalism. But, just like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. I still get a little nervous interviewing people sometimes, but for the most part, it’s second nature.
Q: How do you see the industry evolving?
After I graduated from Eastern, I was not prepared for all the job listings seeking reporters who knew how to take photographs, edit video, and design web pages. I knew employers desired applicants with those skills, but I didn’t realize just how necessary they were. The importance of having those skills is only going to increase in the future. While my job doesn’t require any videography skills, photography plays an important role. Our paper doesn’t have a staff photographer. All the reporters take their own photos.
Q: What role will younger journalists have?
Younger journalists have an advantage in that they can more easily learn those skills going into their careers. They are more familiar with new innovations such as the use of social media. And young journalists aren’t just going to fill the existing roles in the world’s news outlets. They’re going to tread completely new ground as the industry and technologies continue to evolve. It’s an exciting time to be a young journalist.
The SPJ Generation J and Membership committees would like to thank Steven for being our first “Feature on the Fifth” journalist. Be sure to look next month and every month on the fifth for the newest feature journalist.
Think you or someone you know should be featured? Let us know! Send an e-mail to Lynn.K.Walsh@gmail.com.
Lynn Walsh is an Investigative Producer for WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida. Her passion is producing investigations that hold people accountable and provide much-needed answers to the public. She is obsessed with news, social media and pop culture and loves spending time with family and friends. Share your thoughts with her on Twitter @LWalsh or e-mail her, Lynn.K.Walsh@gmail.com.