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Entry-level blues.

"It's an ugly market out there. It's really kind of heartbreaking to see so many really good students struggling to get a job," laments John Kupetz, placement director at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Students around the country are being advised to be patient, to lower their expectations, to be willing to relocate, to work for less money, to do just about anything to get a foot in the door.

With advertising revenue down and hiring freezes and layoffs at many newspapers and magazines, the job market is not a hopeful one for fresh journalism graduates.

"I think a lot of people in this industry were talking doom and gloom long before the recession," Kupetz says. "Now people are taking a long, hard look and wondering if the ad lineage is ever going to come back.

"College placement offices are seeing fewer jobs postings, fewer recruiters visiting campus and fewer paid internships. And more phone calls from alumni looking for work."

"We have many, many worries on the part of our students," says Judith Serrin, head of placement at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

"Newspapers and magazines are tough, especially in the Northeast," Serrin says. "It's a big problem, and there is no way around it and it's not going to get better anytime soon."

Serrin advises students who want to work at a newspaper to look at the latest census figures and try places that are growing. Unfortunately, small and mid-size newspapers--which are traditional starting points for college graduates -- are experiencing layoffs or hiring freezes, too.

But there are other journalism jobs out there, she insists. The computer industry, for example, is a good source. The increasing number of information services, like Prodigy, need writers and editors, and there is a plethora of new computers newsletters, magazines and trade journals. The graduate who is well versed in computer graphics, layout and design and desktop publishing may prove invaluable to potential employers.

Michael Hoeferlin, placement director at the journalism school at the University of Missouri, says a recent graduate paid her rent in San Francisco by producing newsletters for small businesses there. "She would go in on a freelane basis and put the thing out in three or four days," he says. "With strong computer skills, students may find they know more than the employer."

Journalism schools also are advising students to develop specialties in business, science, health and environmental reporting. "When we do hear of jobs, often it is in one of those areas and it gives the students an advantage," says Hoeferlin. It also gives the students the option of pursuing work at the specialty publications in that field.

Placement directors say students can't afford to be choosy in today's job market.

"I know in previous years, students in the magazine sequence were being advised not to take anything less than an assistant editor job at a magazine," Medill's Kupetz says. "Nowadays, we're telling the kids, 'if you want to get in, you may have to take the editorial assistant job, and do a little clerical work.'"

Entry level jobs are difficult to find, but they are out there. What seem more elusive are secon jobs, for people who are ready to advance in their career. "We're hearing from a lot of alumni who are looking to move up and there is just no place for them to go, because nobody's moving," Serrin says.

Many older alumni who have been forced into early retirement also have contacted Columbia's placement office looking for work. "There are people out there with all levels of experience seeking jobs," Serrin says.

"It's funny," Serrin continues. "People in this business always think that our industry is immune. We write stories about tough times in the steel industry and the recession. But we're always kind of surprised that it is tough times for us, too."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Society of Professional Journalists
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Title Annotation:Special Report: Journalism vs. the Economy; finding a job as a journalist
Author:Fitzgerald, Maureen
Publication:The Quill
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Previous Article:Pounding the pavement.
Next Article:Learn more, earn more?

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