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How To Build A Career In Media Literacy And Journalism

Write for blogs and websites that are open to public submissions. You can pitch it to student-run magazines and college-run publications. You can also self-publish.

Jobs in journalism have been on a decline. If newsroom employment numbers in the US are any indicator, between 2008 and 2018 there was more than a 25% decline in newsroom jobs. Job losses saw a sharp spike in 2020 as newsrooms reeled from the consequences of the pandemic-forced declining advertising revenue. There was some relief in 2021 with unemployment numbers showing a decline in job losses but the whammy of  2022 and 2023 is yet to be accounted for.

If we move across the Pacific, the newsroom job security in India doesn’t present a promising picture either. As recently as last week, India’s largest media conglomerate Times Group let go off about 5% of its workforce. When things seem so dire, how can you go about building a career in journalism, media literacy and media- and journalism-adjacent jobs? Things are even harder for freshly-minted graduates looking to find their footing in an industry in turmoil.

As someone who has navigated a career path in media literacy and journalism, here’s some helpful tips for your journey.

Tell your story, be bold

The first thing that gets scanned is your resume. You don’t need a fancy, designer document. You need an easy-to-access, easy-to-read document which tells a story.

The easiest is a chronological document. I have tried functional CVs – clubbing overlapping responsibilities from multiple roles under skills and competencies. And through my conversations with several recruiters, I can say that these resumes fail to fully communicate your story. If the recruiter cannot connect with your story, they won’t be able to advocate for you as strongly. So be bold with your story but make sure the presentation is simple and easily digestible.

To be or not to be

One way to jump-start your career is to get a university education in journalism, media communications or a related field of your interest. However, a degree is not a prerequisite. Having worked across newsrooms with some of the best journalists, editors, content and media specialists, I have seen people build their journalism careers without getting a degree in the field. Though you should be able to tell the story of how you have curated your education and experiences to set yourself up for success in the field.

Roll up your sleeves and get some hands-on learning

Before you jump head-first into a full-time job, it is great to get some hands-on work experience. This has two upsides. For one, it will give you a taste of the field and you can use it as an opportunity to evaluate whether this is something you want to get behind 100%. It will also give you tangible results that you can add to your CV or examples you can share during job interviews.

A word of caution. Indian media is really big on giving you ‘experience’ but no money. This creates a disparity between those who can gain experience through internships or apprenticeships. An opportunity to tap here is to write for blogs and websites that are open to public submissions. You can pitch it to student-run magazines and college-run publications. You can also self-publish. Share them on your social media or add them to your portfolio. You can use it all to shape how you tell your story, as evidence of how you have skilled yourself to be successful as a journalist and storyteller.

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Build your brand and dust off that portfolio

Use social media to share your well-researched, well-argued thoughts on issues. Think of social media as a way of finding your voice. Use this to create your niche, and add value to conversations. If you want to work at an organisation that focuses on media critique, then use social media to create threads of this analysis or carousels or posts (unleash creativity!). As you build consistency in posting content, engaging and adding value to materials posted by others in the field, you will start building your network and become a familiar voice who can add to conversations.

You can use these social media posts to beef up your portfolio. Again, you don’t need a fancy portfolio. There are lots of free online services where you can create your personalised website or curated links to your published articles. Use them to get started.

I hope these are helpful as you think about your career. I must say though, professional journeys come in different shapes and sizes. It is absolutely fine to go up, go down, go around or just take a pause. Analyse LinkedIn journeys but know that there is no template. You can skip steps but you can also pace yourself.

Image source: TV reporter presenting the news outdoors. Journalism industry, live streaming concept by LanaStock from Getty Images, Free for Canva Pro

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About the Author

Cherry

Cherry Agarwal, an eminent Media Literacy and Gender and Youth Rights advocate, serves as the Asia-Pacific Regional Coordinator for UNESCO's Media and Information Literacy Youth Committee. Armed with Master's degrees from the read more...

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