Friday, October 26, 2007

Seven months left - where do I go from here?

I just read this post from Mindy McAdams. It brings out some of the things I have been thinking a lot about lately. I have about seven months before I am due to graduate with a degree in journalism — a degree in print journalism — and I spend a lot of time wondering what I need to do to be ready for my first job. I am really lucky to be in Washington doing an internship at WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive right now, but there is still no guarantee I will be working come June.

I have spent the last year trying to get the online skills I need to get a good job. I think I have some of the basics down. I spent a semester as a reporter for the school paper. I spent the summer at NBC11, and now I am working on Loudoun Extra and other projects for the Post. What else do I need to do to get companies to fight over me once I graduate?

Mindy's five points, in italics, with my thoughts:

  1. You don’t have to be a programmer. But you need to have more than one skill. Another way to say that is, You need to have more than only print skills. This is the main concern I have. All of my education has focused on print. But I don't want to be a print reporter. At the same time, I don't want to be a programmer either. What other skills do I need? Should I pick one area to specialize in?
  2. If you have not taken any online skills courses at all, and spring is your final semester, and the intro online course conflicts with one of your required courses that you waited until now to take — sign up for the online course, and delay your graduation. Do you want to graduate? Or do you want a job? I have one semester left. But I have taken all of the online courses there are (OK, I took the only online journalism class offered). Should I take some classes in photography now? What about broadcast? At least those classes would give me some good skills that will transfer to online projects.
  3. You can go home tonight and learn to make a Web page. ... I have a Web site and a blog, definitely the two best things I have done to learn new things. But I am not sure that is enough. I still have no clue what CSS is, or PHP or a lot of other things. Should I worry about that? What else do I need other than the basic HTML?
  4. You should not even be thinking about Flash if you never made a Soundslides. Download Soundslides here. Free demo version. See what kind of story you can tell. I have done a little with Soundslides. But I have gotten the impression I need to learn Flash. But from my little experience here, I think maybe there are other things that are more important. Should I learn Flash or not?
  5. Every journalist can learn to gather and edit audio for online. Start here. You probably already have a digital recorder. Buy an external microphone. Download Audacity. Get busy. Again, I have done a little with audio. But what about video? I actually really want to learn video, but don't have the money right now to fork over for a fancy camera and software. Where should I start?
I hope that I do not sound like I am depressed and gloomy about my future. Honestly, I am more optimistic and excited about this industry than ever before. I am just at the point where I have some important decisions to make and I am not sure what direction I should go.

During a brief conversation yesterday, Rob Curley pointed out to us some of the same things Mindy mentioned. A degree in journalism is not worth much. I need something more. I have been trying to get that, but I think I am worried because I have not found a niche that is quite right yet. I know I don't want to be a reporter. I don't want to be a programmer. So I am trying to figure out where the middle is, and where I might fit in best. I have started down the path Mindy is pointing to, but now I am at a fork and not sure where to go. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

News from Washington

I was chastised earlier today by someone for not blogging. I deserved it.

The highlight of the last few weeks for me was that some of my photos were printed in the Washington Post! And I am not even a photographer. They were from the Morven Park Steeplechase. I wrote a short story and took some photos, which were featured on the front page of for a few days. A couple of the pictures were in the print edition of the Loudoun Extra section of the Post a few days later. Even though it was only a few pictures and it was only in the local section of the Post that was delivered to one small area, I still consider it a big accomplishment. I am actually doing a lot more photography than writing these days, but am really enjoying it.

Suzanne and I went to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. It was fantastic. Jefferson truly is one of the greatest minds America has produced. His house is worth a visit.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The sights

From Washington, D.C.

Suzanne and I finally got around to doing some sightseeing. You can see the photos here and read more about it here.