Thursday, October 24, 2013

The thrill of journalism after graduation

Photo by Christopher Bonanos

By Jacqueline Lege
Writing for Mass Media student

SAN MARCOS - Long-term success after graduation is something students strive for, but it isn’t dependent on a degree alone. Robert Kolker, author of “Lost Girls” and an award-winning journalist, focuses on human interest stories that could have been overlooked in the rush of his city. Unfortunately, even a talented writer like Kolker faced adversity on his way to the top.

Monday morning, mass communication students welcomed Kolker as he spoke on his whirlwind career to his current position as a contributing editor at New York magazine as part of Texas State’s Mass Comm Week.

Starting out, Kolker seemed to have the credentials for any publication: an interest in journalism, a previous job at his high school paper, and a degree from Columbia University. However, he worked 5 jobs over 7 years before he was hired at New York magazine because his inhibitions and lack of experience kept him from big-name publications.

“Hard news didn’t interest me – I skipped the front section of the newspaper,” Kolker said, thus defining a disinterest that caused setbacks in the future.

Until the first two years after college passed, Kolker was intent on staying in a comfort zone of art review. He took jobs such as a secretary at a nonprofit, an assistant at a movie company, and an event planner for political fundraisers.  Then, he realized a fundamental part of his dreams: he just wanted to be in print.

“What I really wanted to do was write for publication, and suddenly it didn’t matter to me what it was,” Kolker said. “I dropped everything and started freelancing everywhere I could.”

If the year was 2013, Kolker would have written for websites or blogged, publishing on his own, but in the 1990s, he answered newspaper editorials to write anything he could. Residency programs for a medical student magazine, or media law and movie programs for entertainment law newsletters became relatively small but important hard evidences of his talent.

Likewise, Veronika Kondratieva, an electronic media junior, knew she had to search for opportunities everywhere to gain experience.

“Even if you have your degree, and you’ve got all these credentials, and an awesome GPA, if you don’t have experience in the actual field, nobody is gonna want you,” Kondratieva said.  “They’re gonna take somebody over your degree if they know what they’re doing.”

 For Jay Dilick, an electronic media senior, the uncertainty of success is thrilling.

“It (the uncertainty of the job market) makes me nervous,” Dilick said. “But, I’m excited. I think I’ll be able to (succeed), because of what I do in class.”

The process of getting the degree to have opportunities to learn and experience is what’s important. A university brims with diverse experiences, and Kolker emphasized the similarity between collegiate skills and freelance journalism. 

"It's a tremendous learning opportunity. You spend a lot of time working, but you have a lot of fun too," Kolker said. 

The result is this: experience is more valuable than just a degree itself, but the ability to go to school allows for a greater range of opportunities available, and thus a greater chance of success if the student is confident enough to take a leap of faith.

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