College of Media | News

Journalism Career Night Panelists Share their Experiences with Students

Nadin Ghaith
3/1/2012  8:00 am

A diverse group of students gathered for Journalism Career night at the Levis Center on Thursday, February 23, 2012. Students came for various reasons: some are graduating seniors and grad students who want to get their foot in the door, others were sophomores curious about what to expect once it's their turn to get out there. Members of the National Associations of Black Journalists (NABJ) and Journalism, Advertising and Media Students (JAMS) were also present.

A panel of nine Illinois journalism alumni participated in the career night, reminding us all of the wonderful, different career opportunities to be found within the journalism field. The panel members worked in newspapers, television, the digital sphere, public relations and freelance journalism. Many of the panelists found their entry into the field through an internship. Alissa Groeninger for example, who graduated last year from the news-editorial program, is a statehouse reporting intern for the Chicago Tribune. The lesson is: seek out internships.

Justin Breen, ’99 JOURN, assistant managing editor at The Times of Northwest Indiana, helped organize the event and acted as moderator. Regarding the panel choice he said, "what I have been looking for is finding relatively recent graduates who understand online journalism and who can help current students get jobs."

Breen addressed the panel with themes such as the continuing impact of the online medium on journalism, the best way to present a resume and local vs. international job prospects. One by one, the panelists tapped into their experience in the field to address Breen's questions. "Small towns still have big thoughts," said Sam Smith '05 MS JOURN in encouragement of seeking jobs in smaller towns. Gail Fischer '91 Media Studies added to Smith by saying "There are plenty of small markets to build yourself before you move to the big city."  On why journalism is a great career choice, Ash-har Quraishi, '97 JOUR, talked about the time he covered a huge drug bust on the Iran/Pakistan border, "It's crazy, you get access to places normal people don't." Zak Stambor, '04 MS JOURN, who covers Internet retailing for an online publication, said, "You're continually learning. I love beer and I know a lot about it and I get to talk to people about it." On building context in your career Ted Kemp, '98 JOURN, and now senior editor for CNBC digital, advised "People are your greatest resource, don't burn bridges, keep it informal. My approach is to make it a social thing."

After the question session was over, panel members sat in four discussion circles with students and engaged in more personal conversations with them. Students got to rotate among the various discussion groups and ask their questions. Those interested in public relations hovered around Tracy Hernandez, '07 JOURN, public relations coordinator for Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago. Others, interested in the print medium, listened to the adventures of Paul Biasco '10 JOURN who covers the police beat/ night news at the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, a suburb of Chicago.

The panelists gave students a dose of reality and the reality is: there are many diverse and excellent careers in journalism. Betsy Drazner, a senior in journalism said "I think it's really important for them to not only reassure you that there is a future for journalism, but to actually see what that is and see how attainable that future is."


Photos from the event are here.


What students had to say:

"As a freshman I'm expecting to hear more about what they do and what they're looking for; find out new information that I didn't know before."


Lyndsay Vlosak, Freshman


"My major is undecided so I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do."

Brittany Burns, undecided


"This is a requirement for my journalism 400 class, but it also interests me too because these are people that came to U of I and found success in journalism. I am expecting to learn a bit more about how they found success, what they did when they went to this school. "

Arik Wonsover, Sophomore in broadcast journalism


"I want to network with them and since this is the field I want to go into, I want to see what real life people are doing, instead of just people that you see on T.V."

Bria Purdiman, Sophomore in broadcast journalism


"I think it is always interesting and helpful to hear from people that are already out in the professional field and to see their experiences and what they like and dislike about their fields. As a senior, I will be graduating in a few months and I need all the advice I can get and I think it will be a great learning experience tonight."

Hannah Welker, Senior in broadcast journalism


"I'm graduating in May and I thought this would be a great networking opportunity for me and also to get a little bit of advice and positive reinforcement why this is the career I should be taking and to not be persuaded by the rhetoric that's out there that there's no jobs in journalism. Tonight I think I gained more experience with just putting myself out there, in terms of speaking to panelists. If I was at the very same event maybe two years ago, I probably would have been hesitant to push myself out there. And not only just networking with panelist members but networking with my own peers.“

Alexis Pope, Senior in news-editorial journalism


"I've come to the journalism career night every year since I've been here. They say how important it is to go as an underclassman, but I think it's more important for the seniors to hear from the professionals and what they've actually done.  They've come from the same educational background as us, because they're alumni from the University of Illinois. I think it's really important for them to, not only reassure you that there is a future for journalism, but to actually see what that is and see how attainable that future is."

Betsy Drazner, Senior in journalism


"I came in because I heard about this event my freshman and sophomore year and I didn't take the opportunity so this year I felt like I had to, just to see what it was like, see what advise they could tell me, especially now that I'm applying for internships. I feel like their feedback is really important to me now. I thought it was really great, they had a lot of helpful things, I feel like I have a little bit better of an idea of where to apply, things to put on my resume, and opportunities to take that I might not have considered before."

Elise King, Junior in news-editorial journalism