Six knowledgeable media professionals sat at tables in a room at the FGCU Cohen Center on Thursday, Oct. 29, for a panel presentation for 50 journalism students at FGCU. The panelists spoke and the students listened, took notes and asked questions.
Jon Parla, General Sales Manager, Beasley Media Group-SWFL, started the conversation by talking about internships. He pointed out that Beasley hires interns all the time. What does it take to become an intern there? “You need to stick out and you need to work hard,” Parla said. “Radio is not what it used to be, and we have a great staff to teach you. If you’re an intern–try everything you can while you’re interning.”
Penny Fisher, Associate Editor, Naples Daily News (and a member of the NPC Board of Governors), told her story. She grew up in a small town in Indiana. She fell in love with journalism, and started her career as a newspaper page designer. She said, “Journalism is really competitive–you need to network, and find people you can reach out to when looking for employment. You have to have passion for the craft.” She explained what an entry-level job might look like: You might be hired to work 20 hours per week, you might be a clerk in news, and/or a clerk in feature writing. You might be delivering papers–but it’s a start, a beginning, and it’s important to get in the door! She pointed out that internships at the NDN are 20 hours per week, and the current groups of Internship applications were due Nov. 20, 2015. She continued, “If you get hired as an intern, make connections, attend events, you could meet an upcoming star in journalism.” She also talked about what to do now, while still in school. “Take a variety of classes, video, photo, writing,” she said. “Learn to do it all. The more skills you have, the more marketable you are.” Fisher suggested that the students have clips when they are applying for jobs. One website that lists journalism jobs is journalismjobs.com.
Jim Goin, Senior Producer, WGCU Public Television, talked about WGCU-TV, WGCU-FM and ESPN3. As a producer, he oversees the entire production, the big picture. “The mass media experience is a wide variety of things,” said Goin. “For radio/TV journalism, the entry level is where you would start.” He feels that it’s the best way to learn the business, to find out what you like and what you don’t like. He started as a part-time camera person. He encouraged the students to look for internships, production (more technical), communications (marketing), development (sales and promotion), engineering (also more technical). “Public broadcasting has pledge drives,” he said, “and we’re looking for students to come and help. That can lead to internships or volunteer work, like with ESPN3, which broadcasts the FGCU sports events.” He again stressed, “Volunteering can lead to paid jobs, after you get some experience, and the good news is that camera people can make $200-$300 per day.”
Chris Cifatte, Evening News Anchor, WINK-TV, told the students about how he got into TV. He grew up near New York City and always wanted to be in the broadcast media field. He did some radio, before TV, but never did newspaper work. “TV is very competitive,” said Cifatte. “You need to know what you need to do to get hired. Once you get a job in the field, time is of the essence,” he said, “and you must be great at multi-tasking. Everything you do represents your organization.” He strongly suggested that the students be careful about what they put on their Facebook pages. “The last two employees at WINK-TV who experienced difficulties had them because of social media,” Cifatte said. His best advice–be the person now that you want to be in 10 years.
Gina Edwards, Investigative Reporter, founder of Watchdog City, an independent news source (and a member of the NPC Board of Governors), strongly stated, “It is more important than ever that you protect yourself, your brand, your image. Anyone can publish anything now,” Edwards said, “but a journalist’s job is to seek the truth. That’s your connection with your audience.” Edwards pointed out the sobering figure that 40,000 media jobs were shed in the last several years, but there are 100 more non-profit news agencies, and that’s a positive sign. She recommended that journalism students find mentors that will help them, guide them and teach them. Her first job, she said, was good because she had a really good boss and he taught her how to write, taught her how to write a lead, taught her what to write. “Strong reporting skills are needed,” said Edwards, “in addition to being a multi-media threat. Your clips will help you get a job,” she said, “so go ahead now and publish blogs, etc.” Her words of inspiration included: Distinguish yourself by really telling a story. “You need to develop sources; you need to be insatiably curious. Data analysis jobs are available–look for trends like crime stats, other analysis; a job like this helps.” Edwards pointed out that business journalism jobs are frequently open.
David Silverberg, Panel Moderator and NPC Member, did not mince words when he also said: “Clean up your Facebook page! Work on your LinkedIn listing, actively seek out recommendations, not just endorsements. Make sure your digital skills are in order (WordPress.com)–it’s a leg up.” Silverberg also suggested that students start treating their blogs as serious reporting. “You can post whatever you want and make it professional,” he said. “You can even publish yourself.”
Sports Writing: “In sports writing, you have reporting and you have commentators,” reported Jim Goin. “Column writers (opinion) may comment. Reporters cannot comment. A reporter reports, doesn’t comment; he/she tells what happened in unbiased terms.” Penny Fisher added, “A sports writer has to be neutral without showing bias. The demand for accuracy in sports writing is very, very important,” she said. (Her husband is a sports writer.)
Q: What kind of clips should I produce? How long should they be?
A: Documentaries, 30 min. News, 1-2 min. Keep it brief, with a good punch at the beginning. Have a good variety of clips–show diversity in what you can do. Tell how you got the story, what you had to do to get it. Use your smart phone, editing software, your computer–with that you can build stories. Bottom line: Good reporting is good reporting.
Q: How do you like clips shown to you?
A: Send clips in advance of a meeting. Use links on your website; digital is best. And follow up with paper communication (such as a thank you note after an interview). Why? Because today, that is so unusual and it gets you noticed.
Q: What is important in a résumé?
A: If there is even one typo or error in your resume, I throw it away. I get so many–I don’t have time for ones with errors.
Q: What is important in an interview?
A: Be presentable. Dress for the job you want (suit & tie, dress & heels). Have a good handshake. Look the interviewer in the eye.
A: Do research about the company that you’re interviewing with; comment on a story of theirs that you just read.
Q: How many internships should I have?
A: Get as many as you can. Get internships in different markets. Every newsroom, every station is different. Start your freshman year. Any experience you can get before going for a paid position is invaluable, helps you hit the ground running.
A: Don’t take an internship where you’re stuck in the basement being a clerk. Ask your mentor if it’s a good fit for you. Get a lot of variety!
A: Try different things; you might end up liking something different than you think.
Q: What else is important in getting hired?
A: Don’t come to a job interview with an “I” attitude.
A: Be engaged with the news. Be up on the news. Be curious and show you want to learn. Journalism is so much fun!
A: Tell a story and tell it well.
A: You need to “knock the socks off” when you write. It’s so important. The AP Stylebook is important–use it.
A: Do things through internships, gain experience. So many applicants don’t have experience.
A: It’s extremely important to love what you do. If not, you’re in the wrong profession. Figure out what you want to do in life, and then go for it–love what you do.