Area media leaders share insight for students interested in journalism

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Local area media editors and producers advised students during a job-seeking seminar to take opportunities and get their foot in the door even if the ideal job isn’t available yet in today’s changing media environment.

“Take anything. Take it, get yourself in that newsroom,” said Wendy White Polk, managing editor at El Paso Inc.

She stressed that getting the proverbial foot in the door is important even if it’s not the position student journalists are seeking.

“That’s how you can then learn the operation, you can get to know the people, you can make suggestions for story ideas, you can volunteer to write something, you can bring some knowledge for your community or your neighborhood or your high school or whatever group you belong to, to help broaden the story. Make yourself indispensable, but get paid,” Polk said.

The editors from various news outlets spoke to journalism students about their career experiences to provide insight and advice into the business at the Landing Your First Gig event held at the University of Texas at El Paso.

The seminar featured editors and news directors from El Paso and Las Cruces media where they had a panel discussion then later a one-on-one discussion with students to discuss print, web and broadcast while reviewing cover letters and resumes to prepare potential journalist for their careers.

One point the media leaders stressed was how demanding the career will be while they discussed their own experiences. Although journalism can be demanding and can take up time in personal lives, it is crucial to remember that it is a lifestyle chosen by the journalist.

Alejandro Pariente, KTDO Channel 48 News Director, said students must be all in if they want to pursue a journalism career.

“You cannot be a part-time journalist. If that is your purpose maybe you should think about it because journalism is, you know, a big deal,” Pariente said. “But it’s also a fun deal at the same time.”

Most of the media leaders started careers as student interns for various news outlets that later became their careers.

KVIA News Director Brenda de Anda-Swann started at UTEP where she became a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). With NAHJ membership, she gained networking opportunities.

She urged UTEP students to be a part of journalist organizations, attend conventions and gain experience by working as interns.

“That would be the number one thing that I would advise you to do. It worked for me. I’m very grateful to NAHJ and I am very happy to see so many young faces who are trying to get into the business,” de-Anda Swann said.

Another piece of advice that was stressed was that It’s extremely crucial for students to gain as much experience and knowledge in this field to go far in this career.

To do that, students must focus on interning in places that will provide work and learning experiences that will help them improve as journalists. Another way is by learning as much as possible in classes in their field and using their clips in their applications.

“While you’re in school make sure you’re using your classwork to master your fundamentals,” said Robert Moore, editor of the El Paso Times. “In a 24/7 news environment that we are in now, an employer is not going to have time to teach you those fundamentals. They’re going to expect that you’re coming in with those fundamentals.”

Moore said these fundamentals are what students need to ensure they have a shot at jobs in journalism. Some of these fundamentals are: active listening skills, writing clear and concise sentences, getting comfortable with basic technology like cameras, video and audio recorders and developing basic data skills in excel and becoming familiar with ethical and legal procedures as well as being up to date with the international and national news.

Editors stressed that journalists must be aware of their surrounding and prepared to cover any story.

Luis Hernandez, a multimedia editor at El Diario de El Paso, said being prepared is what got him noticed in his job and keeps him employed.

“I survived four or three cuts because I am multimedia and the best advice I can give a student is carry your cameras everywhere even if they don’t allow it. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission,” Hernandez said. “That’s how they noticed me. I was hustling, I was working every story and running around like an idiot. But I had purpose and I feel that purpose is what got me this job,” Hernandez said.

“If you hone the skills for that task, you’re going to be a successful journalist,” said Sylvia Ulloa, managing editor at Las Cruces Sun-News. “That’s what we are looking for in a successful journalist; somebody who is curious, somebody who the tool is not important, that trait of curiosity of holding truth to power. That’s the most important thing, that’s what we are always looking for,” Ulloa said.

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