Graduation Time

What should we tell journalism’s next generation?

It’s graduation season and journalism schools across the country are spitting out classes of elated and exhausted journalists into the big bad media market. At ceremonies from UC Irvine to NYU, commencement speakers—most of whom rose up through very different worlds than that which exists today—are calming the next generation’s fears and stoking their fires. There was Wolf Blitzer at Penn State, Tom Brokaw at the University of Montana, Bill Moyers at Whittier College (“I’m not sure anyone from my generation has anything to say to your generation except, ‘We’re sorry.’”), to name just a few bigwigs. The gist of most speeches: it’s tough out there, and you have to be tougher—seize the moment, get out from behind your desk, make it happen for yourself.

NPR science guy Robert Krulwich took this scare-and-comfort approach at Berkeley. The job market is scary, he acknowledged with an historical comparison— “It took 10 years for those Greeks to figure a way into Troy”—but journalists today have to create their own opportunities. “You can’t trust big companies to keep you safe,” he told those licking their Conde Nast-addressed envelopes. This isn’t 1950. You have to start blogging, or producing videos, work for pennies, build up a brand, and then the rewards will come. Develop a body of work, says Krulwich, and “maybe that’s your way into Troy.”

Is he right?

Today we’re asking you to assume control of a j-school graduation ceremony, tailoring the event and its theme to these dynamic times. First, who would be your ideal speaker? And second, assuming they’re not taking your calls, what would you stand up and say to those fearful faces of tomorrow’s journalism? What is it that you think journalism school graduates need to hear right now? Let us know below.

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review. Tags: , , , ,