WASHINGTON – Although digital journalism startups have been springing up, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13 percent decline in journalism jobs from 2012 to 2022, a drop of 7,200 jobs.
“My biggest concern about employment after college is the competitiveness of the industry,” University of Missouri School of Journalism student Lindsay Keaton said.
Keaton is right to worry — employers say they still are looking for people – but they are being more selective and looking for unique skills.
“I think [journalists’] level of experience needs to be beyond some clips or some video packages or some photos. We are looking for people who have a highly specialized skill set as well as knowledge of other things,” said Associated Press Vice President and Managing Editor Lou Ferrara, who noted that the company has about 30 job openings.
“There’s an expectation for all journalists now that they not be versed in all formats but that they certainly have an appreciation for all formats and an understanding of them,” said Ferrara.
School curricula have expanded to include education in multimedia techniques like Adobe Suite, which includes audio and video editing in Premiere and photo editing in Photoshop.
“To be a news reporter now, you need to be cognitive of visuals, photos, videos, public records, electronic data, and Powerpoint slides because you’re expected to be a reporter that has a holistic approach,” Ferrara said.
Rebecca Lawson, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, had been editor of her high school paper, a freelancer for the Chicago Tribune and a student in a Northwestern University high school journalism institute before college.
“I came into college with a strong background in journalism and a love for media in all of its forms,” said Lawson. “Even if Michigan had a journalism program, I still would have majored in Informatics because the digital age is clearly upon us.”
Informatics is “a combination of programming and Internet courses” with “elements of Economics and Social Psychology,” according to Lawson.
Others have geared their job search to areas of journalism other than news reporting and writing in hopes of more job availability.
“I have positioned myself with doing more editing and things on the digital side because general reporting jobs are not as easy to come by,” said Maria LaMagna, a web producer for Bloomberg, who graduated from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern last year. “It tends to pay more. That’s a terrible thing to say, but I think that’s true.”
Things may be looking up for entry-level journalists though, according to an annual University of Georgia study. About 66 percent of 2012 students who graduated with a journalism degree landed a full-time job about six to eight months after graduation. Only 62 percent did so in 2011.
Still, about a quarter of the bachelor’s degree recipients said they regretted that they had studied journalism and communication in 2012, according the annual University of Georgia study.
“Journalism is not something easily taught in a university setting, but more in a practical setting like internships and mentorships,” said a 28-year-old political reporter who makes $60,000 a year, who asked to remain anonymous to allow disclosure of personal financial information. ” I got a [Journalism] Master’s Degree at Georgetown, which is the most useless degree.”
With or without a degree, journalists have chosen a field that may be competitive, but not when it comes to pay. In May 2012, the median annual wage for reporters and correspondents was $35,870, according to the Bureau of Labor Statics. Compared with the overall national median salary of $51,017, reporters’ and correspondents’ salaries may deter some from entering the field.
“It’s been said a thousand times: if you expect to get rich, you better rethink journalism,” said David Levinthal, a senior reporter at The Center for Public Integrity. “Journalists have a love for storytelling, have a keen sense of justice, want to help the community or our country and like telling important stories or have an overriding motivation.”