While many of my friends are getting their diplomas and moving into the real world this spring, I’m taking the scenic route to graduation – pinning on an extra semester that allows time for a Gainesville Sun newspaper internship, journalism trip to Brazil, volunteer work in north Indian villages, and some extra multimedia classes.
“Oh, you’re such a free spirit,” my mom’s friends tell me as they nudge their children toward law school or MCAT classes.
But my sense of adventure might have something to do with the fact that finding a job has me shaking in my hiking boots.
The other day I looked up from my elliptical to the gym TV to see a headline that read “Worst year to graduate ever?” Soothing.
It’s not just the news, or the demise of the Boston Globe, CosmoGirl or Oprah Home. It’s also the journalism conferences where even lighthearted, successful columnists like Dave Barry have given budding writers the yellow light.
Professors in j-schools around the country are arming students with “backpack journalism” skills like video editing, RSS-savvy writing and Web design, but telling us to be open to PR and advertising.
My mother, who still makes me open up Word or upload photos for her, is pushing me to become more technical. Basically, a computer programmer who might have a couple story ideas too.
So what is the class of ‘09 to do? Pick a safer major like applied botany? Twitter about world issues while bartending on the side? Teach for America?
The best advice I’ve gotten so far comes from a neighbor, Uttam Reddy, who said that every chaotic situation (read: our economy) is an opportunity for something fresh and better.
This is a man who reads the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and St. Pete Times in its original form every morning. He is not convinced that print journalism is a dying form, so much as a fluid concept.
I realize that as we walk cap-and-gown-clad across the stage this month (or for me, in December), my colleagues and I have been naturally seeking alternatives to the usual job hunt.
I successfully applied and interviewed with a magazine in India, even though a delayed flight and Mumbai traffic required me to put on heels in a dirty bathroom and arrive an hour late.
Several of my fellow J-schoolers have taken off to places like Costa Rica or Singapore to do odd jobs while freelancing and looking for a photo/print home. Others have stuck to small-town weeklies or magazines until things look up.
Whenever I Google for jobs, I check England, India and Canada for openings too. There’s nothing that New York has that Nova Scotia doesn’t.
The Generation Y of journalism networks our blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts not just to talk about our crappy days or the new Star Trek, but to actually share perspectives and news.
These social mediums have also allowed me to “friend” the people behind the bylines and mug shots that I read growing up. I can message a successful author or columnist anytime, and they have the capacity to read my humble articles if they have insomnia and a mini-feed.
And while some internships think it’s fine to let you fend off poverty in New York City without compensation, I’ve been keeping a list and deadlines of some compassionate news magazines that offer stipends or small salaries for a 6-month oasis between school and the real world.
So yes, it’s tough times and the roads aren’t clear. But for the group of emerging journos who can take a situation and produce a feature story, YouTube video, slideshow and soundbites from the field, the world is an even brighter, more accessible place than for previous graduates.