Stony Brook Journalism Grads Face Uncertainty

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Screenshot: http://www.thestonybrookpress.com/

I was spending some time in the Stony Brook Press office last week, (settle down, Indie staff-it was for an interview…and, yes, maybe to watch the latest episode of South Park with my interview subjects) when I noticed this lengthy feature (2,900 words) by Najib Aminy in the latest print issue on the enfeebled journalism job market and just how it’s been treating the latest Stony Brook graduates these days.
I’d say that the word length in itself makes a powerful statement. When it comes to the arthritic job market in this industry, our alumni (though quite a diminutive group at present) apparently have a lot (or, perhaps more) to say. If you’re writing a nearly 3,000-word story on the issue, I guess that comes as a healthy advantage. If you’re floundering around in stale air nine long months after you hurled your mortarboard skyward, however, perhaps it’s not such a wonderful thing.

I say this sans the tongue in cheek sarcasm that I usually administer pretty liberally on this blog: this is probably the most useful article that I’ve read in a Stony Brook campus paper. First of all, I have to say that I love the fact that Najib has localized what has easily become a national issue. I’m sure that even the laziest news consumers among us (this week, I’m prepared to list myself as one of them) have come across at least a couple of articles highlighting the doom and gloom of the journalistic job market.

The industry, after all, is in the process of recovering from somewhat of a botched facelift courtesy of esteemed amateur surgeon, Dr. Internet. Coincidentally, ever since he opened up his international private practice, pessimistic (or, simply honest) newsies from this publication and that publication have led us to believe that the world after graduation from journalism school has become an unwelcome, unforgiving place.

Consider it the haunted house of the entry-level job market. You only set foot in it if you’re a fan of the unexpected (a risk-taker, if you will), and yes, it is surprisingly full of ghosts (R.I.P. Rocky Mountain News, Gourmet Magazine and all those plucky little dailies who faced corporate wrath just as they were starting to turn a profit).

I have to say that it is more than a little scary being among the first graduates of a young program. When you think about, we’re essentially responsible for crafting the reputation of the journalism school (as if any of us needed the added pressure of being ambassadors).

Obviously, the grim fact that many of us are going to be stepping out into a bruised economy in which the unemployment rate has ballooned to 9.8 percent this past month, and employers are still notably skittish about hiring, isn’t doing a whole lot to alleviate some of that anxiety. Does anybody know a cheap stress ball manufacturer?

Let’s face it-the economy is still gingerly nursing that generic chicken soup, and our inability to pick up jobs after taking two steps out the door might not be the best thing for the journalism school just as its trying to establish itself as a legitimate program alongside those with deep roots (Syracuse, the University of Missouri…you name it. Just about every program is older than ours.).

That said, I don’t suppose that the situation is really as straightforwardly hopeless as it may seem. Because we are so new, I suppose that gives us somewhat of an advantage when it comes to dealing with new technology. After all, the start-up budget allowed for a $1.3 million state-of-the-art newsroom. Many of you are probably sitting in it right now as you read this.

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Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31412485@N02/3523341214/in/set-72157608505691860/

If you are, I encourage you to take a good look around the place. We humble J-schoolers are extremely lucky to have all of this, especially considering the fact that we are part of such a new program.

Think about it-we’re still sitting tight, patiently waiting for our graduates to snag jobs and grant us the all-important credibility that the school so desperately needs…but, we do have expensive editing and vital skill-building programs, like the latest versions of Final Cut Pro and Photoshop (Final Cut alone could set you back nearly $1,000 if you don’t know where to look) at our disposal. I’m sure that at least a few newsrooms at so-called ‘established’ institutions are in desperate need of a makeover…perhaps there should be a newsroom edition of Extreme Makeover.

I’ve said it before…this newsroom is sort of like its students in that it’s a bit like the kid who was lucky enough to grow up with available technology. It didn’t have to scramble to figure out every minute detail like many of our fifteen-words-per-minute parents often do.

However, I have to wonder how potential employers or members of a graduate admissions board are going to be able to understand the brand of journalism that we’re capable of producing?

The program itself is only four years old…pre-school age. Alright, so I guess you could say that the program is somewhat of a prodigy-call it a Mozart of new major programs-but that doesn’t change the fact that the program still lacks the prestige of say, a Columbia or a Syracuse.

In addition, as the online program stabilizes, I think that professors really need to be careful not to get too carried away with the new technology. Because we are still growing, it might seem like somewhat of an arms race to gobble up all the latest gadgets and gizmos of the journalistic realm. While this may be fine for the established faculty members, who have already dipped their toes in any number of print or broadcast oceans, their more inexperienced students really need a rigorous education on the basic tenets of journalism-that is, getting to the bottom line of the story and developing superior writing skills-more than they need their professors to smack them in the face with a Twitter account.

Apparently, the News Literacy program here at Stony Brook is doing something to boost the school’s credibility, according to Najib’s article. It seems as though our school is becoming somewhat of a model for other universities that are trying to incorporate something like this into their curriculum. Who can say for sure? Maybe this will be something that really makes the journalism department stand out before it receives the confirmation from successful alumni that it truly needs.

Here’s a quick rundown of the program.

Let me know what you think. By the way, can somebody tell me why it’s always incredibly weird seeing professors on Youtube?



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