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Is a career in journalism rewarding?

I am a high school junior and I am still trying to decide on a career choice. I have been researching đź““ ism but I have to say the pay is not very encouraging. One source has beginning salary at $30,000. #journalism #writing #writing-and-editing

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Stefania’s Answer

Hi Allison,

You have a very loaded question! First, your definition of "reward" and "success" will shift over time as your career evolves, but you need to figure out what that means for you. Are you defining reward/success in terms of compensation and money? Career development and growth? Work/life balance? If you are focused on financial compensation, do some research online (BLS.gov and MyNextMove.org can give you an idea of what the salary curve looks like by level and geography over time. Remember that companies who may not offer a high starting salary may be able to negotiate other benefits with you -- such as paid time off or bonus plans, retirement, etc.


Also look at larger companies versus smaller ones. Smaller businesses have limited budgets compared to larger firms. Journalism is a very competitive field, but if you are passionate about your work and are good at it, you already have two of three important components that make up a "rewarding" job for many people.



Stefania recommends the following next steps:

Reflect on what you define as "rewarding" work
Research, research, research! Research salaries by level and geography; research large/small companies.
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Michelle’s Answer

Hello Allison! My name is Michelle and I am a poet and journalist. I can assure you that absolutely, a career in writing is a very fulfilling one. However, your concern about pay is understandable and is something I considered before committing to my major. I can not stress enough that internships and unpaid work are something you MUST look into if you have serious intentions. I work for my school paper, have been editor of a book and have submitted work to online magazines. Absolutely none of this is paid, but they are wonderful opportunities to build connections and to further your passion.

Follow your dream, and you can make it work. Don't be discouraged because of the pay.
You can do it!
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Lore’s Answer

Allison,

You asked this question three and a half years ago, so I am answering it for students who today and in years to come want to know if journalism is rewarding, given the lousy pay scale.

First: You are right to worry about how much money you can earn from your life’s work. Don’t ever, ever allow anyone to make you feel your financial survival shouldn’t be your top priority. Anyone who says, or implies, that money doesn’t matter either has a trust fund or a rich spouse and a generous prenup.

Second: You are correct in thinking journalists are poorly paid – at every step in their careers, not just at the outset – compared to employees in most other white-collar professions. And NO, journalists cannot negotiate benefits like paid time off or bonuses or retirement plans.

For the past decade, thousands of journalists’ jobs have been eliminated. During the pandemic, many thousands of additional jobs have been wiped out. People are lucky to get journalists' jobs. The advantage lies with the employers.

Third: Despite these grim facts, many types of journalism are rewarding for people who really long to do this type of work and have the self-discipline to live frugally and cultivate cautious spending habits.

You need to do a lot of soul searching to figure out if journalism is the right choice for you. You need to know what aspects of news coverage have you obsessed and enthralled.

* Do chills run up your spine when you read the slogan “Democracy dies in darkness,” the Washington Post’s slogan?
* How many news feeds do you have on your phone? NEWS feeds, not your friends’ social-media musings.
* Do you know every twist and turn of the climate change crisis and your generation’s response to it?
* Are you a politics junkie, either on a local or national level?

If your answers are enthusiastic, you might find work as a news reporter or investigative reporter to be rewarding.

Or are you fascinated by specialized subject matter you want to write about professionally?

* For instance, what are your 10 favorite fashion and beauty websites – the ones with editorial content, not the commercial ones from which you buy blue jeans and mascara?
* Or are all your Instagram photos of buildings instead of people, and your favorite TV shows are about fixing up or selling houses?

If these questions bring enthusiastic answers, you might find you have a future writing for fashion and lifestyle magazines or real estate websites.

Fourth and finally: Reporting, researching, writing and editing skills are absolutely crucial to every type of journalism. Do you have the patience to learn them and keep sharpening them day after day, year after year?

Reading materials from organizations like the Poynter Institute and ProPublica can help you figure out whether journalism is your vocation:
https://www.poynter.org/educators-students/writelane/2021/why-should-i-become-a-journalist/
https://www.propublica.org/

My best wishes to everyone who wrestles with this decision-making process, whatever their answers may be.
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Kruti’s Answer

Every day you wake up and are paid to investigate new topics or events occurring in your community. You learn something new every day as a journalist, which is what makes the career so rewarding.
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