Panel of journalists speak on opportunities in the field

Enticing students with ideas on a life after graduation, the political science department hosted a panel on careers in journalism Friday afternoon.

Three panelists discussed their experiences finding work as journalists and the challenges and rewards of careers in the field.

Laurier professor Geoffrey Stevens, a former columnist and managing editor for the Globe and Mail and editor at Maclean’s began by answering the “why?” question that students face when choosing career paths, specifically in the uncertain field of the press.

“It’s simply the most interesting career there is,” said Stevens.

Stevens was joined by Christian Aagaard, deputy city editor at the Waterloo Region Record, and Laurier graduate and Sarnia Observer reporter Tara Hagan.

All three speakers provided students with insight regarding their personal paths into the field of journalism, highlighting their preconceptions and how their current and past roles in the industry affected their impression of the job.

“I initially got into it because I didn’t want to teach,” said Stevens, a current professor at both Laurier and the University of Guelph.

Overall, the panel agreed that journalism is a unique pursuit that someone needs to be fully committed to, as it consumes his or her life in most cases.

“It takes a certain character,” added Aagaard. “You have to be crazy in a way.”
The panel emphasized the role of campus publications in their own lives as places where they discovered the potential in careers in the field.

“There’s no substitute for that kind of experience,” Stevens said.

Hagan’s account described how involvement in the university paper at Laurier Brantford, the Sputnik, changed her initial intention to pursue teaching and led her to an internship at the paper she still works at today.

While the turnout for the workshop was not overwhelming, those in the audience appeared engaged and genuinely interested in the experiences and advice the panel had to offer, even when presented with information that would seem to dissuade students from the career.

“You don’t know what you’ll be doing and you don’t know when you’ll make it home,” Stevens said, making note of the detriments to family life and sleep schedules the job provides.
The pressures and deadlines of the job were highlighted by Stevens.

“I’ve never had time for writer’s block.”

He elaborated on the hectic routine, saying, “there’s nothing like the prospect of being hanged in the morning to concentrate the mind.”

The future of journalism was a topic that came up in both the panel’s accounts and in questions during the lengthy question period about the prospects for those aspiring to have careers in the media.

“There will always be a need for people that can write and tell a good story,” Aagaard explained.

“That being said, you will need to be multi-talented and have a variety of skills.”
He continued to speak about the challenges facing new journalists, with declining news budgets that have forced the individual to write, take pictures and create video.

“A good candidate needs to be adaptive.”

Those entering the field will need to be proficient in multiple disciplines, “The ‘writer’ classification will dissolve and the title will become simply ‘journalist.’”

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