Savvy Suggestions to Student Journalists: Good Info But Surprisingly Myopic published an excerpt of writer Joe Grimm’s, Breaking In: The Guide to Newspaper Internships. Grimm, according to the Uwire article, is visiting journalist at the Michigan State University School of Journalism and a Poynter Institute columnist specializing in recruitment.  Now, as many know, newspapers are closing around the country or doing serious layoffs, and many journalists and student journalists are keying on web news sites and web production efforts.

However, Grimm offered some interesting ideas about the importance of newspaper jobs. But I thought his focus on mainstream newspapers – regardless if their closing like crazy or laying off like crazy – was dimmed because he overlooked the importance of alternative and ethnic/immigrant news operations (many of which are scrambling to improve their operations on the web).

So, I’ve decided to do a kind of call and response, using Grimm comments from the Uwire excerpt for the “calling” and me doing the “responding.” Here goes (Grimm’s comments are italicized):

“Some college newspaper editors insist that their papers are as good as or better than the local paper in their towns and that college experience should count as much as working at the local paper. To most of us editors, though, it simply does not measure up, no matter how great the college paper is.”

“You may think we’re wrong — and maybe we are — but this is the reality you’re going to have to work with.”

“Editors will almost always place a higher value on experience at mainstream newspapers — even lousy ones — than experience at college newspapers — even great ones — because mainstream newsrooms are simply more like our own newsrooms than college newspapers are.”

My response: What Grimm says here is very good advice but it’s myopic. There are good alternative and ethnic/immigrant news publications that can provide important internships as good as the mainstream. In fact, ethnic/immigrant publications are actually hiring while it is generally believed that most mainstream newspapers aren’t.

“The range in age and experience in a college newsroom is much narrower than it is in a mainstream newspaper. The newest person in a mainstream newsroom is almost always more experienced than the college paper veteran. The average workweek is shorter in a college newsroom. Examples abound of students who live at their college newspapers, trashing their grades, but they are at the bleeding edge.”

“The average workweek for the staff at a mainstream newspaper is a lot closer to forty hours a week than it is for the overall staff at a college newspaper.”

“Dailies, even small ones, publish five, six or seven days a week. Good college newspapers seldom go five times a week year round. The fact that your college newspaper published just as frequently or has a larger circulation than the daily you’re applying to just won’t carry much weight.”

Again, what he says is accurate but should also apply to veteran journalists at ethnic/immigrant and alternative newspapers as well. I believe – and I believe Grimm does, too – that newspaper experience can provide journalists invaluable journalistic tools that are not easily obtainable from broadcast, for example, and that there should be a way to provide journalists and student journalists these invaluable tools even as the student and professional journalists make their way to the web.

I hope that makes sense. I plan to revisit this topic of the importance of newspaper experience even for those who will be working or want to work on the web. And, of course, I will keep in mind ethic/immigrant and alternative news publications.


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