Is a journalism degree necessary to get a sportswriting job?
I had a great time meeting some Bleacher Report writers at the Dallas Meet-up Friday, and one of them asked me a pretty good question.
The writer, whose name I won’t use because I didn’t know I was going to write about our conversation and didn’t get his permission, is, aside from his Bleacher Report writing, the editor of the student newspaper at his two-year college. He wanted to know if, given that background, he’ll be able to compete on equal terms in the job market with someone who has a degree from a journalism school.
In other words, would his work, no matter how good, always be trumped by a fancier degree?
My answer: In my experience, this racket is all about the work. Degrees from some schools can open some doors and grease some skids. They seem very fond of Ivy Leaguers at certain East Coast journalistic institutions. But for the most part, the people doing the hiring care a lot more about whether you can do the work than about where and how you learned—or didn’t learn—how to do it.
Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab has been celebrating the start of the school year by asking various people how well journalism schools are “preparing students for the real world.” The latest to answer is Meredith Artley, the managing editor of CNN’s digital operations, and her view of the importance of a journalism degree is telegraphed in the headline: “Here’s what we look for when we hire young journalists, j-school grads or not.”
A little disclosure: CNN, like Bleacher Report, is owned by Turner Broadcasting. And, for what it’s worth, I have a master’s degree from the journalism school at the University of California.
Artley’s answer pretty much ignores the “Education” section of the résumé:
The job goes to people who don’t just have the skills, but to those who demonstrate knowledge and curiosity about the job, the company and the broader digital landscape …
Skill-wise, people who have the killer journalist/coder combo have been a hot commodity for some time. But those candidates now are becoming easier to find thanks to schools evolving their programs by melding programming and journalism courses, and people who learn interactive reporting skills on the job.
Emphasis mine. Artley, who writes that she is “proud of my journalism degree from one of the best j-schools in the country,” the University of Missouri, also writes, “I don’t consider a journalism degree to be a job requirement.”
Aside from providing one answer to our Dallas writer’s question, Artley offers a lot of good advice to journalism job-seekers, from how to handle job interviews to what kind of skill set to pursue. Worth a read.