Journalism student? Start your own company, advise researchers

New York, June 28: As newspapers shut down, media outlets consolidate and social networking platforms become the primary source of news, journalism students must look beyond traditional print or TV jobs and aim to become entrepreneurs to start their own ventures like websites or PR firms, reveals a significant study.

The study from Rice University and Rutgers University found that educators are encouraging aspiring journalists to look for work outside the news business.

“They’re telling their students that they don’t have to, in fact shouldn’t, go work for traditional news organizations — they can do temporary, contract or freelance work, or work for non-news corporations, the government, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) or almost any other place,” said Max Besbris, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University.

“For a long time, journalism had been trying to cultivate the difference between journalism and PR (public relations), so it was really interesting to see this change in thinking, and hear individuals say that students should prepare to work as journalists in non-news organizations,” he added in a paper set to be published in the journal of Social Forces.

Now, papers are shutting down, news outlets are consolidating and information is widely available on the Internet.

“We wanted to see how these drastic changes in media and media consumption over the past 20 years were impacting journalism education,” Besbris noted.

For the study, Besbris and Caitlin Petre, an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers, conducted in-depth interviews with 113 faculty, staff and administrators from 44 US journalism programmes.

The authors argued that journalism schools have sought to reframe the industry’s unstable labour market as an inevitable and even desirable part of the business and its professional identity.

The authors found that journalism educators are “very aware” and sensitive to changes in the industry.

The majority interviewed said they accept the changes in the field as a reality and see no way of returning to old models.

They also agreed that students must move away from thinking about journalism as a coherent career path and instead must accept the precarious nature of their jobs.

Most of the educators they interviewed stressed that students should be “as entrepreneurial as possible” and be willing to start their own businesses or websites.

They encouraged students to not only become good writers or photojournalists, but also develop the skills to do just about anything from writing and editing to recording and designing.

“Many of these journalism school professors are telling students to learn to hustle, be game for anything and even to celebrate the precariousness of the labour market,” Besbris said.

Some of those interviewed, however, were “very upset” about the changes taking place in their schools and within the industry.

However, Bebris said, those people — who were mostly PhDs with little or distant experience in the field — comprised a small minority.

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