I recently attended a "Magazine Career Day" at my alma mater, The University of Georgia. While there, I was invited to sit on a panel with other journalism professionals and take questions and offer commentary on careers in journalism.
I'll give it to the students: They had a lot of questions and seemed really eager to learn from my and other panelists' experiences in real professional world of journalism. Questions ranged from topics about what a typical day is like to what qualities an ideal job candidate should display. "Is it more important to have a high GPA or more community/organizational involvement?" and "What interviewing methods do you use when interviewing prospective employees?" were just a few of the questions I answered.
As enjoyable as my experience was (I also got to meet several bright and ambitious students at the Career Fair, which was a more formal time for those looking to attain internships or jobs to meet, hand out resumes and learn more about the companies represented there), I was a bit disturbed at one question, which, ironically, came from a distinguished faculty member. He asked me, "Can you tell the students about the trade press and how it may differ from the consumer journalism that they mostly study and are familiar with?"
I happily did so, explaining that the old truth that "there's literally a magazine for any and everything" was most evident in the trade/B2B world. But after explaining trade journalism, I thought to myself, "Why isn't the journalism school, whose mission is to teach these aspiring journalists about all things journalism, living up to that? Why am I having to do this on career day?"
Then, I remembered the days when I sat in the same seats in which those aspiring and eager journalists sat. I, too, had no idea what trade journalism was. In fact, when I took my first job at a small company that published a B2B book, I had not one idea what a trade show was, much less how to cover it. Free subscriptions to "qualified" subscribers was an alien idea. So I had to draw on these memories every time I was asked a question like "So what age group is in your magazines primary demographic?"
I also had to remember that these kids were under-exposed to the trade press, as I watched them literally maul the other three panelists from a consumer magazine, well-known broadcast company and a newspaper, respectively. As far as these students knew, these are the sexier, more popular forms of journalism that, in part because of the school, they are more exposed to.
My question to you, the trade press professional, is what can we do to change this? I know it's the easy and convenient thing to do to blame the school administrators for not working more trade journalism into the curriculum, but at some point, we have to look in the mirror too, right? I mean, can we really say we have no part in the fact that these kids don't know that trade/B2B journalism is probably the deepest field of journalism in terms of jobs? Or that they don't know that trade journalism probably offers the most job stability (my magazine recently celebrated its 30th birthday, and my boss has been employed with the magazine for 20 years)? The latter facts were brought to my attention during a conversation I was having with a member of the UGA Grady College faculty who did a thesis on B2B journalism.
So are we doing all we can? If you don't think so, then what else can we do? We have chapters nationwide, so what can each chapter do to in their respective cities to expose college students to B2B journalism? Should more chapters try to establish relationships with outreach coordinators at these schools? What about holding workshops or educational sessions catered to these students?
Let's hear your suggestions. Because, after all, these students are the future of journalism. And don't we owe it to ourselves, our publications and our profession to do a better job of nurturing our future?