How to “win” a journalism job right now

Whether you’re one of the people already looking for a job or someone who’s thinking about that next move, the director of digital content for Scripps television stations, Chip Mahaney, has something to tell you.

The key thing I advise job applicants is to realize that in any job search, there’s only one winner for that job. Every other candidate, even second place, is a loser – sad but true. So I always ask, what are you going to do to win the job? Assuming you meet the qualifications, you then have to demonstrate that you’re the best.  

What does he mean by that?  Mahaney says you absolutely have to be a master of the basics – gathering information, writing and presenting well – but don’t stop there.

Having that extra skill (shooting video, creating Flash objects, Photoshop, running your own blog) really helps set you apart.  Several people I hired in the past 2 years had something extra in their skillsets that made me put their resume into my “A” list, and they got a call back.

Mahaney also has encouraging words for job seekers, based on personal experience.

When I graduated college in 1986, that job market was tough too.  That year saw hundreds of people being laid off by the networks, but the good thing was that local news was really coming into its own.  Video equipment had replaced film, and new satellite trucks gave local stations the ability to cover stories far away from home base.  The business changed, but most people adapted.  There’s certainly a good lesson in that for me for today – times were tough, but we got through it.  It will happen again in 2009 and 2010.

And despite the tough times, Mahaney says there are new options for journalism entrepenuers who want to create their own for-profit businesses.

The bad news is, few people have figured out a sustainable business model for online journalism.  But that’s also the good news.  There’s ample opportunity to try.  The Internet has knocked over almost all the barriers to creating a journalism business.  You no longer need a printing press or a broadcast tower.   What kind of news coverage do people want, and how can you convince people that this coverage is worthy of their support?

We’re probably all interested in the answers.

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