It’s every college student’s worst nightmare: waking up one morning months after graduation and finding yourself still without a job. We spend thousands of dollars and countless hours of schooling to prepare ourselves for the career of our choice, and for some of us, it will all go for naught.Students in the Communication Studies program, specifically those that wish to work in journalism or broadcasting, are facing a unique crisis in their field. For an industry that was already very competitive to begin with, we are witnessing the disappearance of jobs on a daily basis. Unfortunately, most students are attempting to get into radio, TV and newsprint with the bare minimum of the handson experience that West Chester University has to offer. The mind set that good grades and a passion for the work will lock up a job for us is foolish. Yet more and more graduates are knocking on the doors of places like Knight Ridder paper and WPVI-TV with blank resumes and empty portfolios.
The idea of a steady career in mass communications is pretty flaky to begin with. At the College Media Convention last week in Kansas City, Vanity Fair editor James Wolcott trashed the traditional concept of “career” for many eager young journalists and broadcasters. He warned against expecting to hold down a specific position like “fashion writer” or “sports broadcaster,” and predicted instead that one must prepare to work like a permanent free-lancer, willing and able to do a wide variety of tasks.
In an age when the traditional lines between the mediums are blurred, new technologies are making the traditional jobs that went along with them dispensable and obsolete. Wolcott’s warning applies not only to those of us preparing for entry into mass communications, but to those already in the field as well. In just the month of October, Knight Ridder, the parent company of The Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer, bought out 100 jobs. No one was fired from WYSP when they switched formats to Free-FM two weeks ago, but it represented the third major format switch in Philadelphia this year, the first one being when an entire radio staff was fired from Y-100 when it became The Beat overnight last February. WB-17 rounded up their entire 30-person news team and handed out severance packages in anticipation of Dec. 9, when NBC-10 will begin outsourcing their news programming, similar to the way CBS-3 simulcasts on UPN-57. Wire news, automated DJ machines, and satellite syndication are re-structuring our local media right before our eyes, and experienced veterans are being pushed out with few places to find other work.
As such, it would be comical to think that a rookie could even tread water, much less earn a living, in such a hostile climate. It would be even more silly to think that a fresh college graduate with no real experience could expect to find any vacant positions. Yet we continue to witness classmates profess how much they want to be a sports broadcaster or a TV star, but never make it to a WCUR or TV club meeting. We see promising young writers doing nothing but talking about their writing, while this very newspaper fills white spaces with ads for columnists and assistant editors.
There are a myriad of opportunities to gain professional experience in mass communications right here on campus, free for those who wish to take advantage. Regrettably, few ever do.
With WCUR, WCU-TV and The Quad all right down the hall from one another, it is becoming more convenient to take part in one, two, or all three organizations. Students that expect to have to drive into the city to build their portfolio can do so in a much more impressive fashion without leaving Sykes Student Union.
What will look better on a resume, writing and editing your own weekly TV show on WCUTV, or handing out key chains and thongs for the Q-102 street team? The media groups at West Chester University are moving forward with the intention of taking a large portion of the market share in the Delaware Valley, and communications students that claim to want part of that portion are sitting on the sidelines.
If you’re serious about putting your tuition to work for you, consider taking advantage of everything West Chester University has to offer. Get involved with the student media as soon as you can. Otherwise, you may find yourself waking up one morning and waving goodbye to your “career.”
T.J. Nicolaides is a senior majoring
in communication studies.