The search begins

After taking a one-month hiatus, it’s time to get the whole journalism career back in full swing.

On Monday, I start my semester-long internship at Radio Free Europe where I’ll finally see what it’s like to work for an international media organization specializing in international news. This will also come as a challenge because I didn’t major in international studies and I’m a product of America’s media–meaning, there are countries where I know close to nothing about their conflicts. I noted the 20 countries RFE covers and the major stories coming out of them, but there’s no way for me to learn the histories and complexities of each region without being exposed to them throughout my life. It’s exciting to think about how much I’ll learn, but also nerve-wracking to think of the learning curve.

The next learning curve will come with my tough coursework this semester, which includes courses in Web design, online production, video, reporting on ethnic issues, and entrepreneurial journalism. Basically, how can I learn these complex programs thoroughly enough to use them in one semester? And how can I use the skills and lessons I learn in grad school and brand myself for employers?

I don’t want to be “that kid” who spends every minute stressing about graduation or searching the AU career site. From what I’ve seen, the most success comes with patience and focusing on building the steps to the ladder rather than always looking up. My friends in journalism have paid their dues, sent tens of applications, and held out for what they wanted. I need to repress my tendency to secure things far in advance and hold out for what I’d be good at, what would be beneficial, and what I truly want. The hard part now is bracing myself for the work ahead and figuring out exactly what I want.

I want to dedicate more TIME to each of my stories, force myself to use programs I’m uncomfortable with, and find my “place” in the journalism field.

When people ask me what my focus is or what I ultimately want to do, my journalism ADD kicks in. Would it be nice to work at USA Today or The Washington Post? Absolutely. Would I love to be at VOA or Radio Free Europe? Of course. Or how about BBC, AlJazeera English, or CNN? I would jump at the chance at any of those. It’d be an honor to be at all the letters of the alphabet: ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox. With all my experience in mutlimedia this semester, a job at Huffington Post, The New Republic, Wall Street Journal or Human Rights Watch would be amazing.

However, some would argue a better way to look at it is to ask not WHERE you want to work but WHAT you want to do? What kinds of stories do you want to cover, who do you want to read them and HOW do you want to cover them?

The ADD kicks in again.

I know I have a love for social justice/human rights news, and most of those stories come from overseas. Traveling abroad opened my eyes to just how sheltered the U.S. is from issues and events going on outside of our interests, and I want to work to counter that ignorance. At the same time, working for Channel 13 in Indianapolis revealed my love for local news and interacting with people on a more personal level. I had lived in Indiana for twenty years, but it wasnt until I was on the road every day for a summer covering the issues important to Indiana that I really understood what it was all about. At the same time, I’ve been getting into environmental news and covering grassroot initiatives that could have a greater impact. Living in Washington has given me a taste of political news, which I’m still trying to understand but am fascinated by. My personal background in the medical field leads me towards health news, which will become a huge story in the coming years. Lastly, I’ve always had a strong interest in the education system from tutoring children for so many years. I love reporting on youth and secondary education, but it would be interesting to expand that to international forms of education.

The reason I became an English major was simple: I knew I loved a number of subjects enough to take classes in them or join clubs. But I also knew that I could use writing to explore those interests. And English degree was a sure-fire way to continue exploring a variety of topics without marrying myself to just one.

Thus, a new problem arises. In an era where niche journalism and branding are on the rise, my ADD could work against me. I’ve always thought it was better to be able to write about a number of topics (know a little about a lot, basically), but I keep hearing how important it is for me to find my niche. I always feared getting pigeon-holed into a topic that I would grow bored of, but from the sounds of it, I have to get used to it.

The search beings now, slowly but surely, for greater stories than before, new programs, new jobs, and a “niche” I can fill. I’ve already looked at a new TV stations, Web sites, radio stations, and magazines. I think as of now, I have enough to stand a fighting chance at each one, but there’s still a long way to go.

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