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Age working against you

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SEeditor, Jun 11, 2013.

  1. SEeditor

    SEeditor Member

    Taken from another thread on here, let me ask another question.

    What are the chances that a veteran journalist -- someone in their early 40s -- with two decades of experience, but lacking the degree to go with it can actually find his/her way back to a mid-size to metro newspaper as a general assignment or beat reporter? I used to work for a 70,000-plus paper before relocating for family purposes. I worked there for nearly eight years -- all of that on the copy desk. I've since worked as a freelancer and as sports editor for a pair of weeklies where it's a one-man act. It's a do-it-all kind of deal -- write, edit, design, etc. My current place of employment is led by a veteran journalist who has served as the copy desk chief at a couple of major metro papers.

    I ask my question as I somewhat suspect that the opportunities for those of us up in age are facing a losing battle when faced with younger prospects recently out of college, who may not have the experience but have the know-how and could potentially come at a cheaper rate. That said, I wouldn't be one looking for a huge payday over the opportunity to get back to where I was five years ago before moving or even a bit further.

    It should also be noted that I'm back in school as well, though I'm going for a degree that is not journalism.
  2. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    First off, NOTHING BEATS EXPERIENCE. All the degrees and technological know-how means very little if the person with it can't apply it. Nothing is impossible. Keep swinging. You're bound to hit something. Good Luck in your search.
  3. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    In theory, you are correct. In practice, at least for the past six or seven years, young and cheap beats experience. In a blowout.
  4. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    Which is why this business is where it is today.
  5. Editude

    Editude Active Member

    If you are upfront in the applying process about the lack of a degree, your experience (if the position is a good fit) would be welcomed. What we don't want is finding some George O'Leary discrepancy in the resume; that's an automatic circular file.
  6. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    The issue almost never comes up, even after I note it on the application form, and the resume says full-time reporter at age 19. If someone wants to be an ass about it, I tell them that in the era just after Watergate there were enough j-school students to replace every working journalist in the nation and that my (lousy) starting salary was the same as my paper was playing the glut of master's degree people from Columbia University. In those days, being promising enough to land a good gig without a degree was a badge of honor. Treat it that way -- it's all in the attitude.
  7. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    You're dead-on on this. Experience has no value. In many cases it's probably a detriment. Young, cheap and easy to manipulate is the ideal candidate.
  8. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    I agree. Those were the good old days. One of the best journalists I've ever had the opportunity to work with didn't go to college.
  9. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    Let's not kid ourselves. Young journalists who are more adept at social media and are willing to work for cheap offer editors obvious benefits. But it's not completely hopeless. If you're determined enough, and it sounds like you are, I'd be surprised if something doesn't come your way. That said, if possible, work towards a degree. Great way to broaden your horizons and develop skills and contacts on the road to filling an important hole in your resume that might help you in endeavors outside of journalism you may want to pursue down the road.
  10. KJIM

    KJIM Well-Known Member

    The subject isn't necessarily age working against a candidate. It's the lack of a degree.

    These days, that's true in *any* field. What the degree is in doesn't matter so much, so long as a candidate has one and can check the box saying so, they're good.

    Heck, even Peace Corps' unwritten requirement is to have a degree. At least there, if you have 10 years of experience or so, you can still qualify. At other places, those odds are dwindling.

    Employers want candidates who have college degrees. I have no idea why it matters so much, though.
  11. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Active Member

    How much of the discrimination against older employees is because of the perception that the older employee is less adept at handling the various software programs than a recent college graduate?

    If you are an older candidate I think you need to sell your abilities in whatever electronic environment you are going to work in. Push this in the interview.
  12. Cigar56

    Cigar56 Member

    At this point, not having a degree is not going to matter much -- if at all. For many journalism jobs, I am not sure a four-year degree matters no matter what your age is. Sure, some of the elite newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post will prefer that you have a college degree. But there are countless other papers that simply don't care as long as your background can show you can do the job.

    Age really becomes an issue when you reach your mid-fifties. Unfortunately, in today's market that's a tough place to be if you are unemployed.

    The big advantage for completing a degree is that it provides options if sports journalism does not work out. Many a sportswriter is now teaching in public schools.
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