Grads get in on the online gold rush p.30

By: Editorial Staff As soon as Scott Lantz received his BSJ from Ball State University, he knew he wanted out of Middle America. So Lantz, a young man at the time, followed in the words of William Hearst and went west. When he reached the Pacific Ocean, he stopped ? he had made it to Seattle.
That was almost two years ago, in June 1997. Back then, Lantz didn't have a place to live, nor did he have any job prospects. Today, however, at 22 years old, Lantz is regarded as one of the brightest technical writers at Microsoft. He says that "never in a million years" did he think he'd land a job at such a place but that the Internet skills he learned in J-school helped seal the deal.
"What got me in the door for this job was my ability to program for the Web," says Lantz. "Believe it or not, I learned all of that in one of my entry-level journalism classes."
Lantz is one of a growing number of recent J-school graduates now working in online media. According to the University of Georgia's 1997 Annual Survey of Journalism and Mass Communication Graduates, more than 10% of the 1997 graduating class took jobs in online journalism. Statisticians involved with the study say they expect to find that about 15% of last year's J-school grads started their careers online.
Many recent grads describe online journalism as a gold rush ? a quick way to get involved with journalism and make more money than they might as an entry-level reporter or editor. The University of Georgia report shows that graduates who went into online journalism earned an average salary of $4,000 more than their peers who went into print or broadcast media.
While some recent graduates say new media jobs are hard to find, most say new media opportunities provide them with new avenues to explore the art of storytelling. Ryan Thornburg, a 1998 graduate of the journalism program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, landed a job as an online producer for Thornburg admits that he doesn't do much writing but insists that day in and day out, he's still practicing journalism.
"We don't get out and comb the streets of Washington for news," he says, "but we explain the world to people and give them enough context for them to explore the news as broadly or as deeply as they choose."
Stan Dorsey, a graduate of the University of Missouri's J-school, says the beauty of online journalism is the fact that it creates hundreds of new opportunities for people to break into the business. After finishing his schooling in May 1997, Dorsey then went to work on the Web site of the Detroit Free Press. Just last week, he moved to Boston, where he'll be one of two sports producers for Dorsey has gotten so involved in the technical aspects of Web development that he says he hasn't written a word in months. For Dorsey, that doesn't seem to make any difference.
"I don't miss the writing one bit," he says. "Just being in the newsroom environment is all I need to feel like I'm a part of something great."
Some graduates, however, say that online journalism forces journalists to be more vigilant about practicing some of the basic tenets they learned in J-school. Drew Weaver who writes short reviews for Digital City Los Angeles, where he has been an editor since last year, got his BSJ from the University of Maryland in 1993. Then he spent a few years as a print reporter with The Philadelphia Inquirer. In 1996, he moved west, joining Digital City in Southern California. Since then, he says, the skills that have helped him most in online journalism have been those traditional reporting and writing skills he learned as an undergraduate.
"Web skills are totally essential, especially an understanding of the Web and how it works," Weaver says. "But the thing about J-school is that I don't think you have to take certain lessons as career-specific. The idea of being able to zoom in on a story and write it quickly is a skill you need in every medium."
Weaver says he was lucky to find his first job with Digital City out west. For other grads, finding a job in online journalism has been a nightmare. There may always be jobs available but finding the right job in a particular area can be more difficult than one might think. Randall Trumbull, a senior at Ball State, who has spent a year scrutinizing the Indiana job market for a new media position in graphic design, still hasn't found something he thinks would satisfy him.
"I just don't see [worthwhile] opportunities in this area of the country," he says. "I am constantly running into people who don't know anything about the Web and are too stubborn to consider any type of alternate media. [In the Midwest], I see new media [becoming] a viable option, but not ? yet."
It seems that patience, as it's said, is a virtue. With the high-tech and Internet industries booming, experts say that any J-school graduate who wants a new media job should be able to find one without too much trouble. Lantz, Trumbull's BSU classmate who now works for Microsoft, says the key to landing a job in new media is the way in which journalism students market themselves. Play up the skills in writing and reporting, he advises, but never downplay the technical abilities you learned in J-school.
"Technology and writing really mix well," says Lantz. "With new media, you don't have to be technologically proficient, but you have to know how to use the new media to reach people. Remember ? the context of online journalism is just as important as the writing itself."
?(University of Missouri's Stan Dorsey) [Photo & Caption]
?(Editor & Publisher Web [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher March 20, 1999) [Caption]


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