COLUMBUS – For many journalism students, the thought of being thrust into a full-time position after graduation can be exciting and daunting. The final semesters can be the most important when preparing for a future career.
Even though some may believe a professional journalism career is in the distant future, many students are unaware of what to expect. The experiences of young journalists can offer insight.
Parker King recently began his second year as a full-time reporter for WCBI News in Columbus, Mississippi after graduating from Mississippi State University. Not very long ago, King was excited about the prospect of becoming a professional journalist. After landing his first full-time reporting job in March of 2017, there were challenges.
“It was definitely hard at first,” King said. “Starting out in a smaller market, you’re not a specified reporter. You’re covering stories of every kind of variety you can think of.”
King came to understand the importance of developing contacts in the community.
“It’s all about name recognition, developing that contact base,” King said. “It really gives you a sense of accomplishment when you call the mayor or the police chief, and they know you by name. Once you get that contact base, it’s a lot of fun.”
Though many journalism students dream of making it to top markets in big cities, King stressed the importance of not getting ahead of yourself.
“Coming off that big internship junior or senior year,” King said, “you get a taste of big-city reporting, and you want that. I had to be humbled pretty quickly.”
King said starting in a smaller market is important.
“It’s a long process to get up to the top if you do it right,” King said. “Slow down. Focus on where you are. Use where you are at first to sharpen your skills, whether it be editing, writing, speaking – pretty much everything. Don’t try to conquer the world in your first year on the job.”
After working as a reporter for more than a year, King said forming relationships and connections that he will need moving forward has been most beneficial.
“Having an understanding with your employers has been extremely rewarding,” he said. “They want to know how to help you get where you want to be. They may hate to lose you, but they aren’t going to stop you from bettering yourself.”
As the ever-evolving news climate rapidly shifts towards digital, the public often relies on news stories instantly posted on social media outlets and websites. While some find this concerning, King believes this age of instant news will make the public return to credible sources for facts.
“I feel like news stations and credible papers are established enough to where people will go to them to fact check and verify said instant news,” he said. “A video may make it to the web before the story does, but the story can reach a much larger audience and also provide the facts behind everything.”
Terry Cassreino worked in print journalism for 22 years as an award-winning political and investigative reporter, editor, and political columnist. Today, Cassreino teaches middle school English and high school journalism at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison, Mississippi, according to his website Cassreino Online. He also owns Cassreino Consulting LLC, a media and political consulting company.
Cassreino worked for The Sun Herald in Biloxi for 15 years, and at The Meridian Star and Hattiesburg American. He doesn’t think the digital media age will negatively affect broadcast news, but it can be potentially negative for young reporters.
“Instant news can be a dangerous thing for journalists,” he said. “On-screen reporters can be tempted to talk about what he or she ‘heard’ rather than telling the people the facts that are verified.”
Cassreino said young journalists should stick to facts instead of competing to be first to report an event. “Live coverage of breaking news is important,” he said, “but be responsible. Avoid the urge to report something that may not be true or is an ‘unconfirmed report.’”
Journalism is a highly competitive field, and newcomers are sure to have roadblocks and learning curves along the way. But being successful results from efficiency while under daily pressure, King said.
“It’s all about time management,” he said.