Twitter’s Web Journalism Chat Addresses an Important Question in Journalism: Jobs

Tonight, mostly led by journalists with jobs, WJ (web journalism) chat featured a lively discussion on what recruiters are looking for in job applicants. Later in the conversation, journalists also delved into what skills and assets they’re looking for WHEN and IF they have job openings.

I eagerly awaited the question that asked recruiters to list job openings. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any pop up for D.C., but wouldn’t that have been a cool story? “I got my job from following Wednesday night WJChats? Nowadays, a lot of opportunities happen this way.

Robert Hernandez stole the show with his great advice, job listings and connections he made as a professor at USC and a potential ONA board member. What particularly stood out to me was the lack of students weighing in on the discussion or job hunters. Maybe they were nervous or maybe they felt left out of the employed journalists who seemed to all know each other and congregate in a bubble. Or maybe they were like me, who tweeted every so often and clicked refresh hoping for their next break.

I am lucky, considering that I’m fresh out of grad school, someone decided to give me a shot. I’ll be working part-time at the Houston Chronicle in D.C. doing multimedia and various reports on select issues that interest the Texas audience. I’m looking forward to starting, but I’m also looking for other work so that combined, they would equal one livable salary. In the meantime, I’m volunteering for two media groups (ONA and WAMU), keeping up the foreign policy blog and looking to write for various publications.

I was glad that the discussion tonight didn’t solely focus on social media and technology, because at this point, we get it. We should learn these tools to be able to compete, and we should do this on our own or by joining a school that keeps up with the times. AU is getting there–it is full of professors who understand how journalism is changing, but that hasn’t translated to the curriculum. There are still classes where  you have to write 3,000-word stories and there isn’t enough equipment to teach half of the students how to use a video camera. But from talking to some faculty last night at TBD’s launch party, I learned AU has incorporated a video class for the online/print journalism students.

In my opinion, these are the big things you need to get out of your program before graduating:

  • You need to embrace social media for all its wonders. Don’t start a Twitter account and stop after two Tweets. You’re probably already on Facebook, so get yourself a Delicious page, Flickr and Linkedin account too.
  • Take Bill Gentile’s backpack journalism class to learn storytelling through video. He’s been in the trenches and is about as real as it gets. Also take his foreign correspondence class if you’re an adventurer or have any interest working abroad.
  • Bug the hell out of David Johnson when it comes to the web. He is the most forward-thinking professor I’ve had so far. He isn’t the type to hold your hand and show you what to do. But he’ll point you in the right direction and help you if you work hard. From him, learn the basics of WordPress, Drupal, using social media, Flash, Photoshop (he wont teach you it…but yeah…learn it), and how to brand yourself. On the side (as of now they won’t teach you it) learn some HTML, CSS and PHP. Kinda makes you want to major in computer science!
  • Learn how to edit and use audio equipment for Soundslides and radio packages.
  • Get to know the friendly folks at J-Lab and the IRW, and if you can, get involved!
  • Dive into Joseph Campbell’s media myths–they’ll surprise you and serve as a good lesson on how to conduct your own work
  • I unfortunately never took a class with her, but everyone who has had Lynne Perri for a class has fallen in love with her because of her great advice with editing and producing quality work. She has also been very helpful to students in the job searching process.
  • Finally, blog, put your work on the web and WRITE as much as you can. I came from an English writing background, so that wasn’t as big of an issue for me. But if writing isn’t your thing, the best ways to improve are to a) READ a lot and b) WRITE a lot.
  • Oh yeah, and intern/freelance. You NEED experience!

Some advice from Tweeps during#wjchat:

henrymlopez: Q2 Be able to learn. Know that you’ll need to teach yourself and learn what you’re shown.

webjournalist: Q2 When I hired, news judgment, ethics, pro-activeness and good attitude were key. Tech stuff we could teach you, but know basics. #wjchat

JeffHidek: Q2 Flexibility is king. A vast knowledge base is great but you have to be able to adapt to changing circumstances. #wjchat

SLODeveloper: Q2: Ideal dev candidate would have a bachelor’s degree and 2 years experience in HTML/CSS, Javascript, PHP, MySQL and enjoy dessert #wjchat

kimamoy: Q2 — I look for strong news judgment & Web sensibility, plus ability to learn quickly due to constantly changing tech & new needs #wjchat

andymboyle: @verbalcupcake That they got a degree and have a portfolio that proves they’ve taken initiative. #wjchat

effHidek: Q2 Know the basic principles of databses, coding, flash, actionscript w/ the willingness to learn more. #wjchat #wjchat

kimamoy: i’ve hired laid-off print journalists as contractors, and if they didn’t have web experience, they didn’t last long #wjchat

NicWirtz @verbalcupcake Basically want an example of someone out of their comfort zone and learning something new. #wjchat

wjchat: Q3 Are you interested in applicants being specialists (great videographers) or generalists (scrappy newshounds)? #wjchat

henrymlopez: I am disturbed when I meet people with fresh J-degrees and no digital training. This does not bode well. #wjchat

Q3 Truthfully, know enough about everything but specializing in something. Someone recently said, you need to be a Journalism Plus. #wjchat

BillBoorman: for every interview you need to prepare 3 sets of questions 1 something theyve told you 2 something they havent told you #wjchat

JeffHidek: Q4: Clean up that FB page! We rejected a promising candidate this year after his Facebook profile told a diff. story #wjchat #wjchat

webjournalist: Q7 If you are applying for a Web job, get a domain and your own site showcasing your work. Y’all, it’s actually really simple. #wjchat


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