- The Washington Times - Monday, October 5, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

Studies and surveys show that despite declining job opportunities, more students than ever are signing up for journalism classes, according to the Chronicle on Higher Education.

Colleges and universities across the country are experiencing this trend. Applications to master’s programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Maryland at College Park and Stanford University have risen 30 percent, 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively. Enrollment in undergraduate journalism programs across the nation has risen 35 percent in the past 10 years, the Chronicle said.

What about the massive cuts in the newspaper industry?

Paper Cuts, a New York Times blog that tracks newspaper layoffs and buyouts, has tracked more than 13,000 layoffs and buyouts across the country for 2009, and since 2008, it has recorded 29,000 layoffs and buyouts.

However, enrollment numbers prove that journalism is as popular as ever.

“I don’t think journalism is dying or dead,” said Brian Steffen, professor and chairman of the Department of Communication Studies at Simpson College. The private college located in Indianola, Iowa, is one of many colleges with students eager to learn about journalism despite the suffering industry.

“[Students] are having to reinvent themselves,” he said. “If they want to do journalism, they may have to do it at other institutions.”

According to Mr. Steffen, other institutions include public-relations, promotion and nonprofit firms. After graduation, students will need to be more flexible and take jobs at organizations other than old-school newspaper bureaus.

“Journalism is about getting out of your comfort zone and taking risks,” he said.

Taking risks is what many journalism students are doing nowadays. Students are encouraged to be entrepreneurs and create blogs and media packages. They are also encouraged to become multimedia experts, which for a generation of Facebook and Twitter users may not be that hard.

While professors are encouraging students to branch out, journalism students are concerned about the job market and the fact that a recent study shows that for 2008, graduates of journalism and mass-communication programs had far fewer job interviews and offers than in 2007 and that full-time employment for journalists had hit its lowest point since 1986.

“The job market does worry me,” said 21-year-old Judith Guccione, a senior and media studies major at Catholic University. She has experienced the hardships of finding a job firsthand.

“It’s really hard to get into journalism,” she said. “Online [journalism] is taking over, and it’s hard to get your foot in the door.”

Ms. Guccione attributes the popularity of journalism to the young generation of writers who want to be connected.

“Everything is news,” she said. “Our generation wants to bring out information.”

Even though the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Kansas has limited enrollment in their journalism program, Dean Ann M. Brill said they’ve “seen more people interested in journalism.”

“I think journalism education is a wonderful experience,” Ms. Brill said. “It is a great profession.”

At the University of Kansas, they focus on transferrable skills that journalism students can take with them into other fields of work.

The school’s alumni are doing well, she said. “Some go into other fields [such as] business, education or become lawyers.” They are successful because they “learned to ask good questions,” she said.

Graduates of journalism schools will have to “look harder” for jobs and even “pay their dues,” she said, but finding work can be achieved. She said students will have to “work creatively and smart” when they start job hunting.

A survey released this summer by Lee Becker at the University of Georgia found that only six in 10 graduates from journalism and mass communications schools for the 2007-08 academic year received full-time jobs within six to eight months of their graduation, according to a recent Associated Press story.

“The students who are successful are the ones who conquer their fears and take on the world,” Mr. Steffen said.

• Kelsey Knutson, an intern at the National Journalism Center and The Washington Times, attends Simpson College.

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