I graduated from Boston University with a degree in journalism. I’m currently unemployed and cover college hockey mostly for free, so I freelance on the side. Despite not having a full-time job, I don’t regret graduating with a journalism degree.
I’m actually pretty lucky, since I learned a lot of skills at BU. I took a multimedia journalism class, a magazine class and a broadcast journalism class (where we produced a sports show every week). So I learned basic design, photography, video and digital media skills, which have been important for me the past few years.
When I graduated — jobless — in 2013, I moved back to New Jersey and created Eye on the Tigers for Princeton hockey coverage (this is technically my full-time job, except I don’t get paid for it). While covering the team, I’ve lived off the skills I learned at BU. I started with writing and expanded to video, interactives, photography and social media.
I do a lot for the site — shoot and edit photos and video, write features, make interactives, run social media, create graphics for the site and for social media, run a WordPress website, manage plugins, analyze stats, keep navigation concise (that’s harder than it seems). I also manage social media, and I have to keep it engaging. I monitor recruits, projected rosters, alumni, and more.
My multimedia class (taught by Michelle Johnson) made all of this (designing graphics, editing photography, using interactives) a lot easier. But I’ve still had to learn a lot on my own. I freelance on the side, and there’s so much I was never taught — like how to file an invoice.
Journalism students need the core and creative skills, but they also need the practical skills. They need to know how to get a job (how to network), how to freelance, write invoices, manage taxes and pitch yourself or your ideas.
So if I could fix journalism courses, here’s what I would include:
- How to freelance: Freelancing is hard. You have to know how to pitch stories, how much to charge, how to write invoices, what freelancing groups to join, and — most importantly – how to file taxes. Freelancing can be important for young journalists starting out, so journalism schools should teach these basics because I had no clue how to do any of this when I started freelancing.
- Branding: This is really important. Branding can happen naturally with journalists who are involved in social media, but teaching this should help.
- Design graphics for social media: Maybe this is just me, since I design all the graphics for my site and its social media on my own. But it’s helpful if you know how to throw together a quick quote graphic for social media, especially when you’re tweeting a story. (Canva is what I use. It’s great.)
- Social media: There is so much you can do with social media beyond just Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Snapchat and Pinterest have a lot of power too. Even with channels like Twitter and Instagram, journalists could benefit from knowing how to analyze each channel and make it more engaging. Social media is also a great way to monitor news. How do you think I find out who’s committed to Princeton? (Side note: Aside from Twitter, Snapchat is my favorite social media channel. You can add as much media as you want to your Snap story, and it doesn’t get lost (like it does with Twitter).)
- Photography : I was lucky that Prof. Johnson taught us basic photography. Her class is actually how I got started with hockey photography. The basic editing skills helped too, as did some Photoshop skills I learned in my magazine class. But other things, like fixing color balance, I had to learn on my own (which matters because I shoot hockey at Baker Rink, where the lighting isn’t good and some pictures show up orange).
- Video shooting and editing: You should be able to shoot and edit your own videos.
- How to run a website: We actually also learned this in my online journalism class since we made an online portfolio for our final project. WordPress is pretty easy to use, and it’s a “skill” many companies look for. It can also help later on if you start your own site, as I did.
I also think all schools should teach students how to send networking emails. And how to network in general because these skills don’t come naturally.
Jashvina Shah covers Princeton hockey for Eye On The Tigers and covers the Big Ten for College Hockey News. She graduated from Boston University in 2013, where she spent her time covering women’s lacrosse, women’s hockey and finally men’s hockey for two seasons.