By REECE MIDDLETON:
Today on East-West, we look at the uncertain prospects of university students studying to be journalists and how the ones at CSU rank up against students in the city and across New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria.
Today we examine the question
“The skills professional journalists are looking for: are they found in rural or metropolitan students?”
Studying for three years, and up against hundreds of entry-level journalists, it can be very challenging for younger entry-level reporters to be able to land themselves a job. Significant job cuts have been made to the industry in the past 4 months, of which include more than 50 jobs in Fairfax papers, 150 from channel 10, and more funding being cut from public broadcasters ABC and SBS.
In such a challenging industry, what does it take to be able to get your foot in the door and land a job? As the old saying goes, it’s not what you know but also whom you know. Having contacts with stations and publications can definitely help your chances of landing a job, but what are the skills that employers look for when hiring entry-level journalists? And at the centre of the discussion: Does it matter whether you trained rurally or in the big city?
John Paul Maloney, the ACT editor of the Canberra Times, says there are certain skills that are required for entry-level reporters, which are fundamental in being a successful applicant for a job. These skills include strong newswriting, an enquiring mind for stories, enthusiasm for undertaking interviews, and a unique ability to relate with people, to be able to write on any given topic.
Mr. Maloney also says complimentary skills are important in the selection process.
“Have they got a particular strength and interest in science or an interest in the environment? Do they have strong digital skills?
In a rapidly changing media landscape, digital skills are becoming highly sought after. Mr. Maloney says that by being able to design and layout new and revolutionary webpages that can encapsulate readers, publications are beginning to gain an edge over their competitors.
However there still lies the question of where these applicants are sourced. When I asked John which universities he had sourced his news team from, he made it clear that the institutions they were educated at had no profound effect on their employment, but rather their success in the Canberra Times’ internship program.
“Majority I guess probably come from the University of Canberra, we’ve also had strong intakes from Charles Sturt University. In more recent times we’ve had a number of students come from RMIT, occasionally from UTS, occasionally from ANU.”
Mr. Maloney also praised the work of CSU, for it’s practical experiences the institution offers as part of its course, describing the importance of strong practical skills. These skills are constantly evolving with the demands of the industry and the expansion of the digital age, of which he says are strong in applicants from RMIT.
Being educated in rural institutions has its rewards. You are forced to look after yourself, and grow a strong sense of independence and individuality. John is able relate to this, as a young student who left Canberra to study in Bathurst more than 10 years ago.
However many metropolitan students, he says, have very high levels of independence and professional drive, which can be seen as the point of return between a successful applicant with a desire to write news, over someone simply looking for work.
The individuality present in a reporter, is what he says makes them highly valuable within the newsroom.
“I think the ones who are going to succeed are the ones who have got the real enquiry minds; they’re good at ideas. For a young journalist to stand out from the pack, they can contribute relevant ideas of their own as well as the ones pursuing the stories that we ask them to.”
THUMBNAIL IMAGE: COURTESY OF AAP IMAGE/DEAN LEWINS