Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

TNTJ May: You Don’t Have to Be a Journalist to be a Journalist

tntjThis is a response to May’s Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists May topic:

This is a blog ring for young journalists around the world. Each month, we will debate a set topic by posting here and on our own blogs.

This month, the journalism job market will be flooded with new, eager journalists. It’s a nervous time for all. Many graduates from last year haven’t yet settled into journalism, and yet now they have to contend with a couple more thousand rivals.

Tips, knowledge and experience are essential — but how do you get them? Where do you look?

New graduates: What are your worries? Your questions? Your confusions? Put them to the other journalists in this ring — we may just have the perfect answer.

Other young journalists: You were here once. What did you do? How did you land that first important job? What got the ball rolling?

My Story

A year ago I started the adventure they call life after college. I had the rest of my life (a.k.a. the next 6 months) planned out with confidence: a two-week photography class in Berlin, Germany was to be followed by an internship at The Miami Herald.

Things went swimmingly, until I realized that the end date of my internship was nearing and somehow I didn’t have anything else lined up. Job applications and interviews had gone nowhere, and I had done with being picky.

One thing led to another, and a fellow JWJ (Journalist Without a Job) and I decided that New York City would be the perfect place for two multi-talented news addicts to find work. You can read about that adventure in “Sink, Florida, Sink.”

Here I am, nine months in New York. I’ve had two non-news internships, both terminated early due to the economic crisis. I started freelancing a few months ago, taking on any job I thought I could do: web design and development, video production, news writing.

Somehow, I’ve managed to keep my head above water.

Dave Lee recently wrote, in “J-students must stick around and clear up the mess

Just spend your day being a journalist. Get shifts, even if it’s one day a week. Apply for anything that’s remotely near to a newsroom. Work on the reception if you have to.
You need to make sure you’re in the industry when it’s back on the way up.

This is the motivation behind almost everything I’ve done since I moved to New York.

After cold-calling and e-mailing every publisher in the city failed to produce a bill-paying income, I took two unrelated internships and spent all my free time wriggling into every gap I could find.

I found the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative through some searches on local news papers. I contacted the program leaders asking if I could help, in any way, shape or form. They asked me to help them with a website, which led to talking to students about online journalism, which led to freelancing for the Norwood News. Word is, I might also be asked to teach the newsroom some web skills.

PBS MediaShift blog host Mark Glaser asked me to write a series on innovative journalism projects. I can’t even count how many new contacts I made while researching and interviewing journalists all over the country. And while it hasn’t directly led to any new gigs yet, I follow every one of those people on Facebook and Twitter. They are a valuable addition to my network.

I’m barely keeping my toes immersed in the dwindling pool that is journalism. But I take every opportunity to mention to everyone I meet: I want to do journalism.

But you don’t really care about my story. You just want to know how to keep your own head up.

The Takeaway

Meet everyone you can. Go to every conference, search for every possible resource that could help you.

Read/watch these interviews, collected by David Cohn: Who I’ve Learned From – 107 Interviews.

Read these articles collected by Tracy Boyne: 85 Resources to Pass the Time During Your Next Furlough.

Do 18 Things For Journalism Students To Do With Their Summer.

Getting started is hard. How do you start pitching stories? How do you meet editors who can help you? How do you find out about opportunities?

Stay plugged in. Follow every journalist on Twitter and Facebook, pay attention to what they say. Follow the news, and just start e-mailing story ideas to editors. It’s hard, and it’s scary, but eventually it pays off.

Find a way to pay the bills, and then find a way to stay involved.

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