Photojournalism students, as well as those in other mass communication programs, are worried there won’t be jobs for them when they graduate. The news media, trade journals, and even educators are forecasting the collapse of newspapers and downsizing of jobs in other media.
This has caused many students to rethink their career plans.
I don’t think the picture is all doom and gloom, though. In fact, I think many mass communication programs are preparing students well for the future ahead.
Giving Students Options
At Winona State University, where I teach, each student chooses an emphasis among five options: advertising, broadcasting, journalism, photojournalism or public relations.
All students take a media overview course, a visual communication course, a journalism class, a course in issues and ethics in media, and then several electives from across the department’s catalog. They gain depth by taking a series of courses in their particular emphasis.
Because students receive a broad-based education, they have the flexibility to move seamlessly between media-related positions. Just as importantly, this approach prepares students well for the new breed of “hybrid” jobs in the media, which defy easy classification.
The One-Man-Band Professional
Many media companies no longer have distinct positions such as writer, still photographer, videographer, sound technician or editor. An employee at a newspaper may shoot still images, capture video and write an article.
They may also edit the work — words, audio and images — and prepare packages for the print edition or website.
Similarly, employees at radio stations capture and post video and still images to websites. TV station newsrooms, well-versed in working with images, audio and video, are hiring more one-man-band professionals who can do it all.
The place in the media world where there is tremendous growth potential is in web-based media not affiliated with traditional media. New websites are developed each day, and all need content on their pages.
Some of these developing sites may have a journalistic mission and rely on advertising, like traditional media. Others may have a different business model, but still rely on effective communication with a target audience.
Skills taught in mass communication programs are perfectly targeted to new web-based media. Well-done websites need skilled professionals to write engaging copy and create meaningful images that communicate an intended message.
Combining Skills for Success
While mass communication programs evolve to stay in sync with changing delivery methods, the basic skills needed to succeed remain the same. Those students who want to gain an edge would do well to master multiple disciplines.
There is tremendous opportunity for modern photojournalists who can combine skills to create, edit and deploy compelling stories that explain and/or interpret the day’s events, or give insight to life on planet Earth.
Because of the down economy, media growth is perhaps less dynamic than it otherwise might be. Nonetheless, use of the web and its new possibilities will continue to flourish, providing ample opportunity for mass communication graduates in the years ahead.