Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Sullivan’

Why the world needs journalism students

In the final scene of the legendary sitcom Frasier, as the eponymous character prepares to embark on a new chapter in his life and career, he sits at the microphone at fictitious Seattle radio station KACL and recites a passage from Ulysses, the poem by Lord Tennyson.

I think about it now as I sit down and write this blog post, conscious of the fact that many journalism students, as well as some of my colleagues and the student writers I work with at Kettle Magazine, are completing their degrees, and contemplating their next steps.

In that poem, as Frasier interprets it, it is about taking that chance. As the idea of journalism evolves in the digital age, many of us within the past few years (myself included), have rolled the dice to see if we can be able to work in a profession that matters so much to society, for fear of regret later in life.

We have asked ourselves many questions as we shook and rolled the dice. Am I able to get a job? Will the work I do be meaningful? Can I make a useful contribution to the profession itself? We wonder if all of our work will pay off, or if we went down the conventional path only to find a dead end, and that everything we have done and hoped for will never come to fruition.

Students graduate university, ready for what's next. (Photo: DariaRomanova/Wikimedia Commons)

Students graduate university, ready for what’s next. (Photo: DariaRomanova/Wikimedia Commons)

But you needn’t worry yourself, for you, dear journalism student, are still needed and valued. You will be successful, yet you may face difficulties along the way.

Even though journalism is changing, journalists are still a necessity, no matter the platform, a point emphasized especially by the former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan. The men and women of this industry, irrespective of medium, are making a contribution that has no price tag, even though the business of journalism is trying to figure out the best way to monetize the offerings.

The idea of journalism in the 21st century has evolved, most notably because of the internet and social media. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are becoming hubs for content, while the line between news and comment is being blurred, raising questions on the value of facts and accurate information. However, there is an important relationship our society has with journalism — it can inform and engage, which helps our democracy.

It has been at the foundation of the industry’s development, from the beginnings of newspapers and the printing press, to the invention of radio and television, and now the rise of the internet and social platforms. The people who entered this profession were like you — they were not after fame or fortune, but they wanted to make a difference, improve the quality of life, and to help improve the civil discourse by informing and engaging the public to help them make decisions in their everyday tasks.

Many people have proclaimed that journalism is dead, but that isn’t true. You have a purpose in this ever changing media landscape, to hold politicians and powerful people to account, to put context on the events that matter, to shine a light on this ever-changing world we live in, but most importantly to inform the individuals that matter most — your audience.

You will still have a role in journalism, for you are bound to do great things, exciting things, wonderful things, and in the end, you will have the knowledge that you are doing the most good you can for people around you.

The mediums may change, but the norm remains the same. The world always needs journalists, and you, graduating journalism student, will always be needed, not just now, but in the days, months and years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Dear journalism student: Don’t worry, be happy

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, one of many schools that will welcome back students in the coming weeks. Photo - mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, one of many schools that will welcome back students in the coming weeks.
Photo – mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

It is an important question – a question where the opinion you get will be different every time it is asked, a question that has been asked a lot recently. But most of all, it is a question that may not be easy to answer at first, but allows a great debate and eye as to where this industry will go.

Where is journalism going?

It is a debate worth having, in an age where solutions to this particular question are being played out every day to address current topics, from the future of newspapers in the face of new directions in advertising, the future of news on television and radio, to the rise of the web and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter that have created new thinking on not just the language of journalism, but also the consumption of journalism, and the expectations the people we serve have of us in this tech savvy age.

Today, Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of The New York Times, wrote a post on her blog on the subject, based on her observations of that paper and that of her previous employer, The Buffalo News in New York state. Sullivan refers to an article by Phil Fairbanks of the News, in which the mayor had been seen as perhaps running a play to pay scheme with regard to real estate developers and their politics. Fairbanks had been looking into this, and kept asking the questions readers wanted to know about those in city government.

It is a similarity struck at the Times, where questions are asked of leaders in Washington and around the world, to try to give the readers the full story, and in an age of cutbacks on reporters, news organizations, and indeed observers of the industry like Sullivan, have been inquiring what this means for the state of reporting, and moreover, how the decline in reporting can be circumvented for the digital age, in order for it to be guaranteed to thrive.

Her post comes as the Tribune Company spins off its newspapers, including its flagship papers in Chicago and Los Angeles, and news that newsroom staff has declined approximately 30 percent since 2003, according to data from the American Society of News Editors cited by Sullivan.

The fiscal circumstances that have unfolded, not just within the past week but within the last few years, led to some pessimism on the outlook of the industry, from those in it, to those students completing degrees in the many colleges and universities across the country who are studying it (myself included).

As I prepared to finish my degree a few months ago, I asked myself questions about where journalism lies in the new digital culture of ours, and if indeed I would be able to land feet first in the industry without stumbling over. It was a worry I had, a worry, I will admit, I still have somewhat. But I realized I needn’t fear.

To paraphrase the quote from Mark Twain: “The reports of journalism’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”

In the next few weeks, schools will be back in session, and many a journalism student who will look to finish their degree and make a mark on the industry, will likely consider their future, and what it will be like, wondering, perhaps with worry, if a job can be secured at the end of the fourth year.

Journalism, in this new age of technology, has been presented with many opportunities, in the face of many risks. Journalism students will need to do more to stand out and make themselves known, instead of sitting still and thinking about that party Saturday night, from work on other web sites to networking, including on Twitter and LinkedIn.

However, and as Sullivan wrote in her post, there will always be journalism and a need for journalists, whatever the means, whether its behind a camera, or behind the computer.

“What matters is the journalism, not the medium,” Sullivan said. “It’s happening before our eyes, and while there’s clearly reason to worry, there’s reason to hope, too.”

It is my hope that those students who head back to school will remember this and remain confident of their efforts and their potential, but also to keep this in mind – the more time you put in, the better off you’ll be.

We will always need journalists. It may not be in the medium or environment you expect to be in, but know that you’ll always be needed, and that’s a promise. Don’t worry, be happy.

Alex Veeneman is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists based in Chicago. Veeneman also serves as Special Projects Editor and writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. The views in this post are his own. You can tweet him @alex_veeneman or email


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