Alumni Talk Journalism Next

25 Apr

Six UMass Journalism Alumni returned to Goodell Hall on April 21 for a 'Back to the Front' panel discussion. Photo By: Rachel Roberts

Last week, six journalism alumni were invited to a discussion at Goodell Hall to speak of their work experiences and how to “survive and thrive” in an uncertain job market. Here are some of the major points I took home from Thursday night’s panel:

Be a self-starter

Julie Robenhymer graduated in 2003, before journalism classes with an emphasis on multimedia skills were offered. Without instruction on editing, podcasting and other tech tools, Julie became her own teacher. “If I don’t do it, there’s nobody else to do it for me,” said Robenhymer. “I had to learn everything myself on the fly,” she continued. How should you teach yourself? “Trial and error.”

Be resourceful

A huge lesson in all of journalism is to be resourceful and MassLive associate producer Sean Sullivan advises students to know and use every bit of information available to them. “There’s this thing called the internet and you can write there fore free,” Sullivan said of finding an audience and outlet for published work. “I learned a lot of my skills on my own time.” What information was most valuable to him in the classroom? “Stuff that I can use every day—like ethics.”

Write, write, write.

Eric Athas, an ’08 graduate who works as a producer for the Washington Post, recognizes the importance of keeping up with technology, but also feels that those skills can be learned in time. For him, writing is and always will be the most difficult part of journalism.“You just really have to keep at it,” Athas said “you’ll hear some of the best writers in the world say that too.”

Nail your internship(s)

Mike LaCrosse interned a couple days a week with ABC40/Fox 6 in Springfield. After showing up on off-days, weekends, and completing a second internship, he was finally offered a job as a realtime reporter and producer for their company. “Show them that you want to be there more than just filing and making calls,” LaCrosse advises. “Make them think that you want to be there so that way they want you to be there.” Don’t set your mark for one internship either; try as many as possible. You never know what job you could end up loving and it doesn’t hurt to gain experience and training in a variety of professional settings.

Be persistent

Every journalism student will have to sift through the job market eventually, which was exactly what Mary Kate Alfieri found herself doing after graduation last May. “I knew that after graduation I wanted to move to Boston. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have any connections,” said Alfieri, “I just applied, applied, applied”. She currently works for The Loomis Group as an account coordinator and office administrator, a job which she applied for right online. When searching for a job in a tough market like today’s, persistence should

Print isn’t dead yet

Michael Phillis, a staff writer for the Lexington Minutemen, spoke of his experiences in a traditional print-based journalism setting. Phillis acknowledged the “cool new tools and ways to tell stories”, but for his weekly newsletter his work mainly consists of reporting and writing. While he jokes he never really knows exactly what he should be doing, Mike enjoys the wide variety of people and stories that he encounters through his work at the newspaper. “That’s the great area of the job. I ha[ve] an editor and an organization that support [my stories]”.

A lesson from all: be a sponge! Soak up all possible information and technology that could potentially tell your story in a different way. “I think to be a journalist today you really just have to be able to do it all,” said Athas. The future of journalism will be an exhausting one. Levels that once separated reporters from producers and writers from videographers will no longer exist; everyone will be a little bit of everything. While that may sound challenging, Sullivan approaches it as part of the field: “I signed up for this. I don’t see it as a bad thing”. So if you are serious about journalism, take note of Athas’ advice: “Go out there and be a student of the profession.”

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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


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