Editorial: Advice for Young Journalists

By: Nu Yang

“Life is not good for journalists. And while a couple of years ago I harbored hopes that things might improve, those hopes have now pretty much evaporated. Things are not only bad; they’re going to get worse…I’m sure that many people have told you this already, but take it from me as well: journalism is a dumb career move.”

Writer Felix Salmon shared those words in a Fusion.net article “To All The Young Journalists Asking for Advice” (fus.in/1IFAiJY) in February, triggering passionate responses from those in the journalism world. It even caused #AdviceForYoungJournalists to trend on Twitter as advice poured in. Some of them included:

 “I’ve never learned anything while I was talking. Always listen!”—Larry King

“Don’t buy into the myth that there’s a trade-off between high performance at work and taking care of yourself.”—Arianna Huffington

 “Save rejection letters. There’s a reason you weren’t hired. Be willing to pay your dues.”—Matt Maiocco (CSN Bay Area reporter)

“Journalism isn’t just writing. And journalism isn’t just what journalists do. It’s a way to look into the world.”—Alberto Cairo (University of Miami professor)

“Read a lot. Write more. And beware of advice from has-been journalists who rose in a different era.”—Nicholas Kristof (New York Times columnist)

Quite a difference from Salmon’s article. So, what kind of advice should young journalists listen to, and most importantly, follow?

We asked our 25 Under 35 to share their own words of wisdom with other young professionals in the industry, and none of them expressed regret for following a path that led them into a newspaper career. That might change in 10 or 15 years, but I don’t see that happening. Not when you hear advice like:

“Be proud of your industry and your role in shaping it. There is no one else that can say they produce a new product each and every day, and deliver to more households than any other local news source.”—Andrea Vick (Austin American-Statesman local sales manager)

“Our industry has been greatly disrupted in the 10 years I have taken part, so look for opportunities to be the disruptor. Leverage the trusted brand you work for to create unique products, events, audiences and try new ideas.”—John Sloan (Deseret News/Salt Lake Tribune, Growtix senior vice president and general manager)

“None of us began working at a newspaper because we expected it to be easy; in fact, for many of us, we joined this industry because we believe we’re uniquely positioned to solve those challenges and serve a greater good.”—Ryan Martin (The Elkhart Truth managing editor)

These young men and women understand our struggles and challenges, but all of them are proud to be working in this exciting—and sometimes shaky— field. Journalism continues to change and evolve. They know that; yet these editors, advertising directors, reporters, circulation managers, video editors, digital experts (among others), are willing to roll up their sleeves and embrace whatever the future brings. And that’s what they see—a future.

They haven’t accumulated the years yet or perhaps gone through the same kind of experiences as their seasoned colleagues, but when it comes to giving advice, I trust them.

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Published: April 3, 2015

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