Young journalists crossing over

By Rachel McHollister | January 27, 2011

Generation Y journalists are increasingly moving out of the newspaper industry and into corporations that not only pay more, but utilize their knowledge of the newly changed landscape in this era of multimedia.

“Being someone who has a background in journalism and able to utilize today’s form of technology is a rare commodity,” said Lauren O’Neil, a Toronto based professional blogger with a growing name recognition online. Graduating from the University of Western Ontario with a Masters in Journalism, she went the typical newspaper route, but then turned to the corporate world for its more lucrative opportunities. She isn’t the only journalist turned blogger/social media sensation, nor is this trend limited to young graduates.

As for me, I’m part of this young journalist cohort. I was recently offered a job running the entire editorial section of a newspaper. Guess how much they were going to pay me? A mere $14 an hour. I respectfully declined the position.

I have no gripe with the paper, nor the newspaper industry in the least; I have worked quite happily for various newspapers. But advancement is difficult, let alone finding that first job. At a newspaper you are basically waiting for someone to retire, assuming that position is going to be restaffed afterward. This conservatism in hiring is understandable considering the presence and direct competition from the free world online. The classified sections, which used to be a dependable source of revenue, have now often dwindled down to a one pager. Then there’s the obituary section, which can now take the form of a group on Facebook. Other than advertisements, these were the two significant money makers for print journalism. They’re now only barely still there.

I feel as though I’m letting down ‘journalism’ in a way because I’m moving to the corporate side of things, as did O’Neil. Furthermore, I’m wondering if, in this world, I’ll truly get to use the skills that got me interested in this career path in the first place!

O’Neil says she is still using the tools she learned in school, but is also applying self-taught skills. A self-proclaimed geek, Lauren O’Neil spent the better part of her high school years in front of her computer.

“I loved working for newspapers, it’s a good way to get to know a community, but, the corporate world is where the money is at. I feel like I’m selling out [with my journalism skills] but it’s where the money is.” This honest reality is at the heart of many difficult decisions. O’Neil didn’t get into this trade for the money, but, for right now, Toronto is where she wants to be. To live in the centre of a big city, an entry-level newspaper job salary is generally not going to cut it.

At the root of it, many budding journalists go to school because they are good with words. When it comes to mathematics, our eyes tend to glaze over. Basic statistics, however, is the journalist’s friend; they help to quantify a story. In that spirit, let’s look at some stats…

Using the data provided by Payscale.com, which tracks global compensation levels across all professions, we can observe that the journalism industry is female dominated and, on average, salaries are between $27,000 to $55,000 ($CAD). The data also reveals that the top cities for journalism jobs in Canada are Toronto and Vancouver.

The lower end of the salary range is barely enough for a person to get by on, especially in a major urban centre. Granted, journalists are a resourceful bunch and tend to find a way to live off even small amounts, but a lavish lifestyle it will never be. One wonders how single parents survive in this industry?

I wish the very best luck to journalism grads. Finding a job is going to be difficult; finding one that is able to pay the bills will be even more challenging. Perhaps crossover journalists like O’Neil are doing the smart thing: Getting some years in the corporate world and then, if she ever tired of the hustle and bustle of the big city, she could come back to traditional journalism. But will there still be a place for her?

As for me, I’ve gone to what journalists consider ‘the dark side’: Public relations.

_____

References:
http://www.payscale.com/research/CA/Job=Journalist/Salary/by_City


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