I get asked this question very, very often so it’s time I finally answer! I’ve been working in the entertainment industry for 4 years now (wow, time flies), and there are things I did right, along with mistakes I made. Here’s the advice I have for those pursuing a career in Journalism:
START EARLY: If you’re in high school, join the newspaper or your morning news show. It’ll help you be more comfortable when you start entering your college courses. When I was in high school, I was one of the editors for our newspaper, joined “TV Apprenticeship” my Sophomore year and eventually became the T.A up until graduation. It was super helpful as I learned the different things that happen in a news production, and it helped with my writing. It’s never too early to start. Start now.
HAVE YOUR OWN WEBSITE: I created my website/blog right after my freshman year of college. The reason I started was because I enjoyed writing, and thought, why not put it out there for everyone to read? This is also a great way to have all of your work in one spot – rather than having to send the employer individual links to your social media, writing samples, reel, etc.
STOP APPLYING FOR JOBS THE TRADITIONAL WAY: Do you know how many people out there want a job in Journalism? On top of that, it’s not a field with many positions. So, why are you going about it like everyone else? Stop applying for jobs on Career Builder or Monster and crossing your fingers hoping the right person will find your resume in the hundreds they’re filtering through. I got my job with The Chicago Bulls through Twitter and my job with HotNewHipHop through Craigslist. You never know how someone will come across your work. Think outside the box.
BE ON ALL SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. Be on ALL of it. I don’t think people understand how lucky we are to be in this generation of social media. It has made things so much easier to get your work out there and network.
STICK TO YOUR PASSION: If you want to be a Journalist, then everything you do better be in line with that. I don’t want to see you taking up a marketing job or a public relations job just because you can’t find a job that will hire you as a reporter, producer, whatever it may be. Start your own site. Do your own videos. Have it be your college major. Do everything and anything you can. Don’t have a back-up plan.
DON’T PURSUE ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALISM FOR THE WRONG REASONS: This is a bonus tip to bounce off the stick to your passion tip. People always ask me is how to go about getting a job where you interview celebrities and honestly? It pisses me off. Did you really always want to interview celebrities? Or do you only want it because it just looks fun? I always wanted to do this. You could ask my college professors. I remember all the times I was asked to do news packages or write stories and I couldn’t take it seriously because I knew I never wanted to report on news news. I hate the news. It’s depressing and almost always negative. That’s why I chose the entertainment route. My professors knew that and would give me a pass with not having to do all of the extra stuff in class for a “news” reporter. That’s how serious it was.
BE AN EXPERTISE IN EVERYTHING RELATED TO JOURNALISM: When I first started, I was known for my interviews. Definitely still am, but I’m also writing scripts for shows, producing segments, can edit if needed, all of the above. You are more valuable when you can wear different hats, BUT don’t wear different hats for different areas. Wear the different hats related to Journalism. Let’s use the example of a reporter. Don’t just know how to be on-camera and know what questions to ask. Learn how to use iMovie or FinalCut. Be an expert at writing. Know all of it.
DON’T GIVE UP: Saying this field is competitive is a complete understatement. You’re not going to get your dream job right away and you’re more than likely going to have to do this for free when you start out. How bad do you want it though? Don’t give up.