Ahead of the game

Some journalism school students have reason to worry. They’re a few months away from graduating in 2008 with a print-and-A1-photo skillset circa 1988.

But five clips and a smile won’t get you much of a competitive edge these days in an increasingly crowded job market for reporters with straight-ahead text skills.

Mindy McAdams drives that point home in this advice for J-School students:

“If you have not taken any online skills courses at all, and spring is your final semester, and the intro online course conflicts with one of your required courses that you waited until now to take — sign up for the online course, and delay your graduation. Do you want to graduate? Or do you want a job?”

Sound advice.

Back to the lede: Some journalism students have reason to worry. Others are Kyle Hansen.

Kyle, an SJSU student, is working on his second internship at the moment; it’s at LoudonExtra.com working for Rob Curley under the washingtonpost.com’s umbrella.

Say it with me, kids: That’s awesome.

But Kyle still has questions about whether he’s made himself marketable enough for a job in online news and what he should learn next.

Five quick answers:

  1. From the sound of your internships, I’m betting you’re learning a particularly rare specialty: Community management. If you can successfully drive readers/viewers to participate in the news, there will be job opportunities for you.
  2. A photography class sounds like a good way to get some practice editing photos, thinking visually, and doing some basic stuff in Photoshop.
  3. What acronym you want to learn next greatly depends on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. At your next job, you might not have anything to do with code and you might not want to. Like arguments over which video camera you should buy (and I’ll get to that), discussing which (if any) programming language you should learn next becomes a moot point if your job is generating, editing, and managing content. That said, if community management is on the horizon, I recommend you learn Drupal.
  4. Unless you’re going to learn how to feed data into Flash, a bit more like what you see the New York Times doing a lot of, don’t spend your time on it. (That’s a recommendation for Kyle. If you’re a multimedia shooter who already has plenty of Soundslides experience under your belt, then go nuts, learn to make beautiful Flash packages.)
  5. There are no fancy cameras or software suites necessary to learn how to shoot and edit video. If you have a point+shoot still camera with a video setting, use it. Practice telling little stories, even if they’re about your cat. Practice using a variety of shots. Edit using the home movie editing software that came with your computer: Windows Movie Maker or iMovie. That’s the way to learn the basics; if you arrive at your next job and find a fancy HD camera and Final Cut, great, you’ll learn how to push the right buttons to accomplish what you learned how to do with a sub-$200 camera and free software.

That’s all. Anyone else have any wisdom to impart on the class of 2008 as the thought of registering for next semester begins to creep out from under general ed midterms and past-deadline multimedia projects?

Spartan Love

News from San Jose State’s J-School:

  1. Kyle Hansen is skipping town, headed for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive to work with Rob Curley. The Spartan Daily’s loss is internology’s gain.
  2. SJSU is hosting an NPPA Flying Short Course in October. Daniel Sato is furiously wrangling multimedia shooters behind the scenes to set up an awesome program.
  3. I take full responsibility blame for the completely inappropriate title on Daniel’s blog post that closes with the following incredibly intriguing announcement:

    “The San Jose State photojournalism department will be holding multimedia workshops during the two summer sessions each year. Each session will be three weeks and will take place in a foreign country. The kicker, as if working on stories abroad was not enough, is that our school has two partners in this project. The Mercury News and National Geographic will each be sending either a photographer or an editor for one week to assist students as they learn multimedia storytelling techniques.”

The moral of the story: This is a really good time to be a J-School student at San Jose State University.*

*Disclaimer: I have every reason to be kissing up to certain faculty members right now, but really, I mean it!

Intern season means intern blog season

As much as I might wish for a blog intern, I’m talking about interns at your newspapers with blogs of their own (not someone I hired to read my feeds and post wittier-than-thou Tweets for $10/hour).

Let’s start out at a major metro in the west, where an SJSU student on the sports copy desk is working hard to steer clear of the layoff downers and rants against ESPN. Her latest post weighs the pros and cons of a proposed switch off the slow-in-the-summer desk to the multimedia department:

“I don’t want to completely give up on the copy-editing because 1) that’s what got me here, 2) I feel like if I am going to put “Dow Jones intern” on my resume, I should have completed my internship as such, and 3) I am still attempting to get credit for this internship through the English department, and, while I know they would be willing to accept copy-editing experience, video-editing might not be so welcome.”

Hey C-Gull, go for it. The Dow Jones bit looks good on the resume, but trust me, “video editing” is a skill that far fewer job applicants have on their list. Do it. Tell Joe M. I sent you.

A little closer to home, The J Junkie, a Missouri J-School student interning at a small daily in the Bay Area, has also done a good job of dodging the downers and finding her voice. Check out her almost-a-manifesto rundown of her own news consumption habits:

“I typically get woken up by my cell phone beeping. That’s my weather forecast from the Columbia Missourian. As soon as I’ve regained sufficient consciousness, I listen to a couple podcasts as I get ready: always the New York Times’ front page by the fascinating voice of James Barron, and a few others depending on my mood. I check my e-mails and get daily newsletters from the New York Times and Le Monde….”

There’s more, of course.

And there are more intern blogs out there — share your favorites in the comments, and let’s get some of our friends in high places and glass offices paying attention to what their youngest (temporary) employees think of their newsrooms.

Kicking it East Coast style

No, not me. I’m still firmly planted a short walk from Monterey Bay, but a group of SJSU students spent Spring Break in the land known casually as Back East in these parts.

DC and New York, to be more precise.

Photojournalism student Daniel Sato has started to tell the tale. The students visited the New York Times, washingtonpost.com, CNN, Rolling Stone, and National Geographic among other OMFG-would-I-love-to-take -that-tour spots.

Sato credits Prof. Michael Cheers as one of the brains behind the trip, and as it turns out, Prof. Cheers gets to spend the summer as a faculty fellow at National Geographic.

Of course, if I went on a trip like this, hypothetically speaking, I’d probably be spending my evenings at bars with friends, dinners with family, and Wrong shows.

Note to New York friends: Next time I make that trip, I’ll have an interesting little accessory around.