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Will College Kids Still Want to Work in Magazines When They Grow Up?

J-school experts (and others) weigh in.


Tony Silber By Tony Silber
03/02/2009 -10:16 AM






In this post ("Is Hollywood's Love Affair with Journalism Over?") I posed this question: Will young people gravitate to a business defined by bankruptcy and decline?

I was talking about magazines and newspapers, although, one could argue, it could've been the media industry in general.

Late last week I asked several of the leading voices I know in this area what they thought. Here are their responses:

Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni
J-School chair, University of Mississippi


We have become a very bloated industry. Now it is time to pay the piper. That being said, the opportunities for work in the media are still limitless if you can report, write, edit and have a sense of judgment. We (as mature adults) still get excited about the technology and the gimmicks, but young people don't. It is a way of life for them. There is still a need for people to create good content. This year alone we have, at our relatively small university, 248 applicants in journalism. It is the second highest major after biology. We have a total of more than 500 majors divided into 320 in liberal arts and 180 in business. While entry-level jobs at major companies are getting harder to find by the minute, the smaller operations and mid-size publications are still hiring. It will be fun to see how many people get hired by companies outside the 100 leading companies! I know that the light at the end of the tunnel may be the train coming for now, but I do believe there really is light at the end of the tunnel.

Jeff Klein
Former CEO, 101communications,
Faculty, University of Southern California


My sense is that enrollments and applications are up at grad schools, which may say more about the lack of jobs generally than the field itself. At USC, they are focusing on entrepreneurial journalism. They’re teaching that each writer needs to think about building his or her own personal brand. I think there will always be demand for the skillset of a good journalist. It may not be in journalism. It’s hard to predict because the economy is so bad right now. It’s hard to envision what the recovery looks like.

Paul Conley
Blogger and consultant


I would never recommend journalism for a career. But that was true 20 years ago too. On the other hand, if someone really and truly feels that they want to be a journalist, then I would never try to convince them otherwise. To me, journalism is a calling. I don’t mean that in the “big” way that so many folks do. I think if you’re called somehow to change the world, then there are far better ways to do that than to work in journalism. However, if someone feels compelled somehow to be part of this industry, then I say more power to them. With that said, let me offer a word of caution here: I’ve done a lot of work with a lot of students at a lot of schools. And I tend to see the same things over and over again. In particular, I run into people who are in journalism because they have been “pushed” or “led” to the profession because of something in their personality or appearance. These folks often lack the drive and the “love” that they'll need to make it in the business. But journalism has been presented to them as something that they “should” do or that they “would be good at.” And the folks making those recommendations often don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. (And as the industry changes, the percentage of teachers and advisers that don’t have a clue about what it takes to make it in the industry grows larger.) Still, I run into a lot of college students who are very excited about this new world. But I also run into quite a few who are oblivious to the changes and what it means for their careers.

Harry McCracken
Former editor, PC World
Founder, Technologizer


I think there's endless opportunity for journalism and journalists as long as everybody involved understands that it's going to be an utterly different world than the one we knew. Yes, there will be fewer jobs at big media companies. But for the first time ever, a young person (or an old one!) with some bright ideas and energy can build a brand and serve readers and make a living without having to ask the permission of anyone with a big bankroll and access to printing presses. How cool is that? How many amazing media properties will emerge from that sea change? As for university enrollments—really good question, and not one I have answers to. If FOLIO: did a story on it, I'd read it!

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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