Going from Old Media to New Media–happily

By Tory Johnson

Sep 24, 2009 4:49pm

Every week we read about the death of old media as jobs in print and TV disappear.  But the people who held those positions don’t have to fret: the savviest among them are making the switch to new media—and they’re finding extraordinary success.  Mary Ellen Slayter is one of them.

Q: You moved from old media (Washington Post) to new media (SmartBrief). What's the single biggest change in the work you do and your work style?

The level of interactivity with readers. Of course, when I was writing for the Washington Post, I had regular contact with readers via e-mail and regular online chats, but I had very little information about how readers directly experienced the stories. Publishing online gives you that window. I can now see in real time how many people are reading my content, how often they are clicking on links, and how often they share our stories with their friends. It's immensely helpful to have those metrics.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is looking for a job right now in media/journalism? Where should they look and how does this differ from just a few years ago?

  • Think beyond the big brands. The New York Times obviously hasn't gone away, but some of the most interesting work is being done by smaller companies and looser federations of individual journalists. 
  • Expect the market to be tough even in the small to mid-sized papers and television statements where most journalists work.
  • Focus on developing a wide range of practical skills for sharing your stories. It isn't enough to know how to write well for print; you should be able to promote your story via video, take your own photos, record a podcast, etc. And you have to do all of this without neglecting your basic writing skills. Media companies are trimming way back on the layers of editing, which means you won't have a safety net for errors or sloppy grammar. This will be the era of the Renaissance journalist.

Q: In compiling/writing the Workforce brief, you are on the front lines of covering hiring/recruiting trends. What are three of those that jobseekers should be aware of right now?

  • Ignore social media at your peril. At minimum, you should set up a LinkedIn account. Social networking isn't a substitute for the face-to-face stuff, but it will help you organize your contacts and efficiently expand your prospects.
  • Don't rely on general job boards. Monster isn't dead, but many cost-conscious employers are turning to more targeted ways to reach jobseekers. Check out the job board run by your professional association, for example.
  • Consider contracting or temp work. While many experts are pointing to signs that the economy is perking up, most economists predict that the job market will remain soft for a while. Instead, expect skittish business owners to bring people in for interim positions to solve specific problems. If you know what you're great at and can effectively market yourself, this can be a great way to keep your mortgage paid and continue to develop your career while you look for full-time, permanent work.

Mary Ellen Slayter is the Senior Editor of SmartBrief on Workforce,

which is read by more than 35,000 business leaders every day.




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