About six weeks ago, a newspaper reporter called me about an article she was working on for the employment section of The Plain Dealer. I am finishing up my one-year term as board president of the Northeast Ohio chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and she wanted to interview me for a piece she was working on about the current job market for journalists.
Every week she profiled a different profession for the front page of the employment section, to give job seekers a glimpse into a career they may be considering. I had to assume that most people who read this section are either out of work or unhappy with their current position. While I felt it was my job to paint the journalism profession in the best possible light, the truth is, I didn’t know of a media operation that was growing at the time.
In fact, while I have been lucky to work at a stable company for many years, more and more of my industry peers and fellow SPJ members were finding themselves out of work.
I had to think about how best to answer her questions without painting too dismal a picture of my chosen field. After talking to some of my peers, it became clear that, while media companies may not have been adding positions to their work forces, there were always positions available for the best qualified journalists.
Almost every writer I spoke to knew of a case in which an employee had simply been replaced by a better qualified candidate during recent months. While companies were laying off employees, not every layoff was due to a position being eliminated.
Some were simply upgrades. Employers were taking advantage of the sudden rise in the quality of job candidates, and using this opportunity to boost the quality of their work forces.
The side effect of bringing one superstar into a company can be dramatic. Even my perpetually critical journalist friends admit this can motivate an entire staff in a very positive manner if handled with sensitivity.
A talented work force fuels growth, which, in turn, leads to more positions to fill, and, in theory, a lower unemployment rate.
I found that I was able to answer the reporter’s questions both honestly and positively, by encouraging job-seeking journalists to hang in there. Since then, many of my peers have found jobs, and admit things are starting to turn around.