Home CommentaryStudent Life Part two: The journey after journalism school

Part two: The journey after journalism school

by Archives November 13, 2007

“Son, find a bread and butter job,” someone once said to me. “You have to eat if you ever want to follow your heart.”
It’s sound advice if you want a career in journalism. You’ll face competition for good journalism jobs because people have learned that journalism is one of the best gigs ever invented.
In Phil Swan and Ed Achorn’s How to Land a Job in Journalism, they write that,”Fairly sane people are willing to forgo big salaries, fantastic perks, and regular hours to spend their time doing a job that is both fascinating and important.” But to get that job you might have to fight on your hands and knees.
“I think you should look to get as much experience as possible after university,” said 54-year-old Myron Fontaine. He never graduated from a journalism school but in 1970, Fontaine filled in for a reporter at a local paper and wound up staying at that paper for ten years.
He’s since reported and edited at 11 community newspapers and never worked at a paper considered to be one of the bigger, better known ones. “Don’t worry about working for a big paper,” he said. “Look for a place where you can learn, where you will have the freedom to do some good stories. Sure you’ll sometimes be expected to do a little more, like layout, but it’s not the end of the world and you’ll get there. A career in journalism takes time.”
And of course, put in that time and be patient.
“You have to keep going at it,” said Geeta Nadkarni, who delivers the weather forecast for CBC’s News at Six and researches, writes and reports for The Gazette.
“It’s hard at the beginning. It’s hard on your personal life. It’s difficult making money, but if you work and keep at it something will happen.”
Nadkarni broke into journalism with Asia-Pacific Broadcasting while living in Singapore. When she came to Montreal she freelanced and soon landed a co-host position on Indo-Montreal, of the CH ethnic community channel. It wasn’t long before she got an interview with CBC. They were looking for community journalists, but she didn’t get the job.
However, she did make some contacts through the interview and also found work in the television industry, working behind the cameras where she cultivated more contacts and pitched story ideas.
“That’s something you have to do,” she said. “Keep on pitching your ideas until you come up with something they want. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to get a sideline job to keep you moving, and from there you can also get your ideas.”
It isn’t easy, she admits, and thinks part of the problem is the lack of jobs available out there and the number of journalists entering the market after graduating from journalism school.
“There is a disconnect between the schooling system and the industry itself,” she said. “It’s not in the best interest of a journalism school to cut back on the number of students they accept, but unfortunately there are only so many jobs out there. Mind you, if you know how to write and communicate you can find a job. It may not be the job of your dreams but you can do press releases, you can do public relations, you can parley that expertise into something else.”
In the end, it was her story-pitching persistence that eventually opened the doors. Nadkarni also offers Geeta’s Green Tips on CBC’s Montreal Matters, and produces a pet care segment on Living Montreal.
Clyde Grey, who we met in part one of this series, is still working on an oil rig and is just starting out, but he has no regrets about leaving his last job. He now gets two days a month to work on the oil company’s newsletter where he can earn his bread and butter and regroup.
“I started too fast,” he admits. “I came right out of university and landed in a journalist job I was not ready for. I understand now that my journalism career will take time to shape and that’s okay. I plan on being in journalism for a very long time.”
So while your former university friends are mulling stock options or buying bigger houses, taking pleasure cruises, and eating at expensive restaurants, you may be counting your change to see if you can get a two-for-one deal on a pizza.
There are few overnight success stories, and competition is fierce, but if it is worth to you, then don’t give up.

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