Lessons from the Newsroom: Don't Set a Timer on Your 1st Journalism Job

by - March 21, 2018

So you've landed your first real journalism job. You're ready to hit the ground running, but let me guess - you've already set your sights on the next gig, in two years or less. Here's some advice for you: slow down. There's no need to rush.

Your first job is more than just a foot in the door of the business. If you treat it like a stepping stone, you're missing the point. 

Your first job won't be easy - you've just entered the real world, after all, and there's a learning curve - but that doesn't mean it's not beneficial for your development as a journalist (and maybe even as a person). So instead of setting a deadline on your time in your first shop, make the absolute most of it. Here's how:

First, listen. To your coworkers, to your bosses, to your mentors, to your viewers or readers. Listen to praise and criticism of your work. Listen so that you can get better.

Branch out. Try it all. How else will you know that you like covering politics but hate covering crime?

Make connections, and not just with your sources. This business is surprisingly small. You never know who you're working with now will end up. They could be your boss one day. Or your current boss could know the boss at the next place you want to work. Build bridges; don't burn them.

Practice. You can't get better at anything without it. Practice shooting, practice editing, practice your voice work, practice different styles of writing. Perfect your craft.

And finally, learn. Absorb all you can. It's true that no newsroom is the same, but what you will find in pretty much all of them are a handful of people who've been there for what seems like forever. Instead of brushing them off as old and washed up or someone who doesn't know what else is out there, learn from them what made them want to stay where they are. I promise you it will be an eye opener and help you along your own journey through journalism.

And remember this -- no matter how small your first job may seem to you, to the people you serve it's a pretty big deal. News may differ from market to market, and even from station to station inside the same market, but there is news everywhere. It's not always hard-hitting or crime-related, and some places you work won't have much breaking news, but don't forget that news is what your viewers and/or readers are talking about. Sometimes we as journalists just have to expand our own horizons.

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