Want a job in journalism? Learn biz

June 6, 2011

Over the past year, I have not only looked for a job in journalism, I’ve also covered hiring trends. I spend my days browsing job boards and Facebook groups dedicated to hiring and job-opening listserves and LinkedIn company updates — basically sniffing around anywhere people post jobs. My beat isn’t focused on journalism, but my ears perk up when I find a new journalism-related job-search tool.

Here’s what I’ve learned from all of that research: There are more openings in business journalism than for other types of reporting.

There's always a story in money.

There's always a story in money.

This isn’t based on data, it’s purely anecdotal. But look at Gorkana (I think you have to sign up via email to get the jobs alerts) or journalism jobs or ask a reporter which desks have openings at their paper, and you’ll likely see my point.

Why are there opportunities in biz journalism? Maybe because there’s a paucity of journalists who have the know-how to cover business-related topics. Or maybe because business beats haven’t been shrunk or eliminated quite as badly as other beats, like foreign and Washington bureaus.

Whatever the reason, this opportunity is screaming out to young journalists. Take it and run with it.

But you don’t want to cover business, you say? Here’s the secret, what I wish someone had told me when I used that reasoning years ago: Plenty of business journalism jobs don’t focus solely on business. You may need an understanding of money and economics to handle those beats, but lots of gigs have a money slant rather than a business-only focus.

Let me give you a few examples. Take my beat, careers. I write mostly practical pieces focused on hiring trends or how to look for a job, so a financial background isn’t necessary. But my competitors at, say, The Wall Street Journal, write job-search stories that have more of an economics bent — while still shedding light on a practical topic that applies to the general public. My colleague who covers personal finance is successful largely because of her knack for bringing sometimes-complicated money topics down to a level where she can help readers with everyday problems, like how to afford a house or a baby or a sabbatical. And plenty of business reporters who work for local publications tell stories of the rise and fall not only of businesses, but of the people who run them. Of course, that’s the secret sauce behind any journalistic endeavor, to show how whatever you’re writing about affects people.

But showing how business topics affect people isn’t really what I understood business journalism to be when I was a journalism student trying to feign interest in my economics class. It is true that some beats are heavy on finance, and if you’re interested in that, more power to you, because you’ll probably get paid more than the rest of us. But an understanding of business can also help you land a job covering interesting topics that affect everyone, not just the financially minded.

So if you want to give yourself a good shot at earning a role in this changing business, learn how to cover business. When all of your peers are scrambling for a job and you’re giddily employed, you’ll be happy you did.

Photo credit: Flickr’s chego101

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7 Replies to “Want a job in journalism? Learn biz”

  • Good to know, will pass this insight on to others!

  • Andrea James says:

    Nice post!

    Business stories are people stories. It can be a thrilling career.

    As a business reporter, I kept a hard hat in my car – I never knew when I’d be touring another construction site.

    I’ve climbed a tower crane to interview the man up top, flown in a restored World War II bomber, covered hurricanes and floods, and I’ve chronicled stories about corporations large and small – always learning, always having fun. In Seattle, I covered Starbucks, Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon.com, as well as countless small businesses that weave into the tapestry of this city.

    Business covers nearly all topics, there’s the business of sports, of healthcare, tourism, aerospace, technology, publishing, defense, start-ups, personal finance and investing, taxes and government.

    Through biz reporting, I moved up quickly through my career. And, I rarely had to work weekends. =)

  • Prime says:

    I have to agree with you on that. That’s how I stumbled into biz reporting – it was the only job available for me because most reporters were “scared” by numbers and thought that business stories were boring. Plus, tv and newspaper reporters who are “power hungry” (they have this strong desire to be friends with senators and future Presidents) want to cover politics as that’s a national preoccupation in the Philippines.

    Me? I just wanted to become a travel journalist, but I needed a stable and more high paying job. I used to resent the fact that I was forced by circumstances (i.e. I wasn’t born rich so I had to look for a good job) to go into business journalism. But now, I’m just happy that developing a firm grasp on something rare and valuable – business and economics – has allowed me to get writing gigs that finance my travels and my travel blogging. 🙂

  • eemusings says:

    I’ve noticed this, too – couldn’t agree more. I’m about to start a new role in business journalism and while I’m terrified, I’m also quite excited about the opportunity.

  • How can you get a job as a travel writer? I’m taking the fall 2011 semester off and would love to write some articles covering the places I’ll go, but I have no idea how to go about it!

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