THE BLOG
03/11/2014 02:36 pm ET Updated May 11, 2014

Don't Give Up on the Dream... Just Yet

FULLERTON, Ca. -- The popular slogan on T-shirts of the gathering in late fall for community college student journalists reminded me of my days at The Cornell Daily Sun, where a sign behind the Managing Editor's desk reads: "This is a daily, not a weekly."

The T-shirts will be on sale again April 3-5 at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges' state convention in Burbank. They told students to "keep calm and attend JACC" or "keep calm and use AP Style."

Interest in the Fourth Estate continues to grow, even as traditional industry jobs remain stable or grow only slightly. The reason is quite obvious. The expanding opportunity is elsewhere, on the web. And every job needs good writers with critical thinking skills.

Now, of course there are many more skills to learn before entering journalism. A pad and a pen are nowhere near enough and you need to know how to present your writing on the Internet. It helps to carry such devices as a digital recorder and hand-held video camera. Often, a quality smartphone will do the trick.

One of my students in a recent class on multimedia journalism skills, argued with herself about her choice of career recently but still seemed set on journalism.

Journalism has always been a challenge and the job prospects never assured, but opportunities are surely on the upswing with the boom in the variety and quantity of new technology that will require "content providers." Such a stale term kind of takes the steam and First Amendment appeal of being a journalist out of the picture. But the truth is we are still talking about journalists.

Producers, editors and writers now need to get stories to mobile media in the proper form. This means content is being designed for particular devices. In addition, material is designed specifically for where the user is located.

Apparently this goes way beyond the old zoned editions of yesteryear so that your device knows whether you are reading a story on your couch, a Starbucks, or in line at the local grocery store. And today's youth like shorter form video so that this preference has implications for what young reporters need to learn how to do.

You can also listen to these predictions in audio form if you had not already heard them.

While the dynamic duo who became role models to young journalists of the 1970s was Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, today's hero is Edward Snowden, even though he might not be seen as a typical journalist. That's because the new world of digital journalism requires not only more responsiveness to the public, but also deeper research that is not just anecdotal but technically true.

An earlier example was the research done for the Pulitzer Prize winning investigation of disgraced former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham that revealed his fraud and abuse of government office. This was computer-assisted reporting at its best at the time.

Now it is becoming obvious that the deep web offers journalists even more power in investigations.

A useful place to go to find work is the website run by Mark Grabowski called www.cubreporters.org. While many students seek to find full-time jobs right out of the gate, it is a widespread practice to tryout journalists before they are hired, Grabowski says.

Even better, as Lisa Williams points out, today's reporters should really learn to code. Who can argue that hitting the streets is as valuable as mining data produced by quicker and more powerful computers and knowing how to find the answers to questions posed to huge storehouses of data?

Similarly, I have to agree with blogger Stephanie Yang, who pointed to an entrepreneurial spirit gripping the journalism field. She suggested young reporters join start-ups. Journalism will always have high school students like blogger Taylor Blanchfield who said that this is the best time to enter journalism so she's not giving up on the dream -- just yet.

More journalism jobs require greater technical knowledge than in the past. Now, we are not talking about a day or two of tryout as was common in my day. Believe me, that was high-pressure enough. Some of my undergraduates at National University actually are getting jobs as well, yet the time before they are considered permanent staff keeps expanding along with the skills sought. It obviously will help if you have special technical skills, or even the ability to speak Spanish.

So, again, you really have to want this profession and like the community college journalist, you have to think of it as a calling.