We all know that there are entrenchment issues in the journalism industry, we’ve been reading about it for years. So what are undergraduate journalism students at the University of Wollongong doing to prepare themselves for a tough job market? They are skilling themselves up for a difficult road ahead, and they are striving harder than ever before.
With journalists burning out younger than ever before due to high demands and pressures of a competitive industry, students have to consider their options carefully as their degree does not guarantee them employment after graduation.
The increasing trend towards blogging, the online sphere and contracted journalism has encouraged students to specialise in an area of interest to increase their chances of gaining employment.
Journalism student Steph Bentley says
“I think that the degree gives us the skill and prepares us for what is required of a journalist today, but successfully turning those skills into a career is not something that can be taught… Getting out there and getting experience, networking and just generally digging your heels in and preparing for hard and probably unpaid work is what is going to prepare you for an actual career in journalism.”
Steph Bentley wants to combine her journalism with her science studies with a focus on technological advancements in the area of forensic science as well as the growing climate change debate.
“I know there is plenty of science based writing to be done out there it’s just a matter of finding it… science has a very narrow niche audience, particularly with readers with less time opting for short news delivery methods. I guess if there is a lack of interest, there will be a lack of jobs”.
Aware of the need for a niche specialisation to be recognised among the masses of journalists Steph isn’t the only one to take up an interest outside of journalism. Jacob Foster is a massive manga and anime buff with an extensive knowledge of Japanese pop culture. Mindful of the competitive market Jacob wants to start a magazine to bring media sources for the sub-culture to its wide “un-mined audience in Australia”.
Like many his age the uncertainty of future job prospects looms ahead a vast and unfathomable venture yet to eventuate.
“Look at what’s happening in news organisations all across Australia, bosses are telling employees that they need to learn a variety of skills to remain employed, such as writers needing to learn to have video editing skills, online publishing and photographing skills… Due to convergent media in today’s age traditional media outlets are becoming somewhat obsolete and right now.”
A career in radio is what Natalie Hannan is striving for, in particular “i98fm, 2dayfm or Nova969 as opposed to ABC, only because I love music and entertainment… I feel it fits my personality and interests perfectly”.
Natalie acknowledges that there will be tough competition in radio but is hopeful, saying that “I don’t think radio could ever really die, but there’s always the issue of radio becoming digital and based online… I do think skills will need to be broad, you can’t just write or talk on air, you need to be connected to social media, know how to edit, interview, use all types of multimedia to tell a story”.
Natalie‘s positive attitude and willingness to cross over into various forms of media is a trending trait that journalism students are learning early in their degrees.
Eighteen year old Kayla Chapman has set her sights on the competitive women’s magazine industry that many her age aspire to.
“I think the rise in online journalism will create the most changes to a career in print which is what I plan to do. Every magazine has a website so I could even end up working online. I think the change will be a positive one.”
The competitive journalism trade has most students trembling in anticipation and a little fear as well.
The diversity of interests expressed by all four students indicates that while jobs are competitive there is such a variety of areas to get involved with that if students refine their individual specialisation or area of interest they just might have the upper hand and some great opportunities ahead.