This week many students are returning to the classrooms, and I thought, “what would have been helpful and eye-opening for me to know back in college and as I entered the journalism profession?”
I got in touch with professors and student leaders I admire. Their tips ranged from not letting yourself get discouraged by less than perfect photos to the importance of sketching a game plan early for the academic year.
Take a look at their tips below and have a great year!
“Don’t be afraid to make bad photos/video. It’s all a part of the process. Those repetitions will allow your taste to eventually match your ability. Addressing that ‘gap’ takes years of hard work. Take it a day at a time and allow yourself grace as you continue to grow.”
Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University
Senior Multimedia Producer, USA Today
“My advice for student journalists coming on the market is to always think of collaboration over competition and to get a therapist who can help you deal with the highs and lows of our work as journalists. This job is critical for society but complex for individuals to take on. Know that seeking help when you need it and practicing self-care makes you better able to do the job well and for years to come.”
Tara Pixley, Ph.D
Assistant Professor of Journalism
Loyola Marymount University
“Take care of yourself and those around you. All the hard skills can be learned through trial and error, but you don’t want to burn your colleagues and instructors in the process. They will be the ones to hold you when you falter and keep you on track. Make sure those relationships are strong since they will be the key to your success in school and your career.”
UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
“The only way to get to mastery is to become competent.
… And the only way to find yourself in a state of competence is to be incompetent FIRST.
Epictetus said, “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” It’s an overwhelming temptation to give up too early and to cave in at the first roadblock or obstacle. It’s a normal reaction to feel embarrassment or discomfort at facing these obstacles. It’s never pretty.
And yet, obstacles are always there. Expect obstacles. Instead of dreading them, relish the obstacle as a challenge or lesson. Understand that you’re playing a long game and CHOOSE to keep pushing forward - even if the headwinds are relentless - even if your progress is incremental and even butt-ugly. That is all NORMAL. That is all OKAY. Those who reach mastery know this. That is how you grow.”
Martin Smith-Rodden, Ph.D
Assistant professor, Ball State University
Former photo editor & photojournalist, The Virginian-Pilot
“Understand that journalism skills are so valuable in many fields outside of newsrooms and that these courses aren’t rocket science and aren’t hard, but you have to put forth the work. Push yourself to be a better writer, reporter and visual journalist and to understand how crucial these skills are.”
Adjunct professor, University of Houston
Houston Chronicle's culture columnist
“Don’t fight for the grades/accolades/awards. Provide your unconditional love for what you do, and the grades/accolades/awards will follow.”
Co-chair, NPPA Mentorship Program
“Talk to your teachers! Take time to make a connection, even if it’s just stopping in for 5 minutes during office hours.
After that… look for internships early.”
Lecturer and Senior Fellow in Visual Communication and Photojournalism
University of Minnesota
“Seek to improve interpersonal communication skills to enhance and preserve relationships with those photographed.”
Recently retired Professor at Southeast Center for Photographic Studies
“Join NPPA and look at the training/workshop calendar and sketch out a game plan so you will have the budget to do workshops in the coming year and internships next summer. Those will be great places to find mentors and you can organize your time now, so you don’t miss deadlines for internships or scholarships.”
Multi-Platform News Advisor, College Heights Herald
“Settle in with what makes you happiest. Aspiring to become a smart journalist is a slow burn and guaranteed to happen with the right patience and attitude, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of the other facets of your personality that make you who you are.”
NPPA Student Representative
Co-chair, NPPA Mentorship Program
Journalism student, University of Missouri
Marie D. De Jesús is the first Latina president of the NPPA. She is a staff photojournalist at the Houston Chronicle and can be reached at [email protected].