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Another graduate school question

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Confusion, Nov 15, 2006.

  1. Confusion

    Confusion New Member

    I know we had one of these recently, but my situation is a little bit different.

    I have about seven years of full-time experience at a couple of 40,000-100,000 papers. I have an APSE award, etc. and some good clips. But here's the thing: I got in this business to win Pulitzers and change the world. Most of us lose that. I guess I'm starting to realize that I haven't.

    But I have very little in terms of connections that matter in this business - and on top of that, my paper's Web site is a pay site, so very little exposure. And, in reality, not quite the training and background I need to take things to the next level (my J-school was middling, at best).

    I read the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, Rolling Stone, etc., and think, "That's what I want. I want to go for it," but I don't think I ever got the proper training, connections or exposure to make it to that level. I work in a great environment with great people, but their ambitions essentially stop here - they're not the type to really tear apart your stuff and keep polishing you for the next level. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm at a bit of a crossroads where I feel if I don't make a play for the big time in some way, I'll have major regrets.

    I am considering going the graduate school route - but only at one of the "Big Three," Missouri, Northwestern or Columbia.

    My question: does this seem absolutely insane? Or are there no rewards in life with no risks?
  2. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    No, it doesn't seem insane. In fact, you sound like the exact type of person who should go to graduate school and could benefit. The only place where you aren't a perfect template is maybe you should have done it with four or five years of experience.

    I would say maybe you should broaden your list from "the big three". There might be other places which are also really good and might be more up-and-coming, and perhaps you would gain more than just being someone out of a cookie-cutter factory.

    It would seem a degree might boost you to a better job and a better situation. It might also give you greater knowledge about new forms of media. Even if that doesn't work, in an age where there are job cutbacks, you could also teach. I think if you can swing it, grad school sounds like a win-win situation.
  3. Cousin Jeffrey

    Cousin Jeffrey Active Member

    A lot of SI writers, maybe not a lot but a few, did the Columbia thing, going back to Dr. Z. If I had the money, I would've done it. Regardless, you're putting yourself in a hole financially, but don't ever let anyone dissuade you from more education. Also, you can definitely make good connections through grad school. Anyone that tells you different is lying, or doesn't want to admit it.
  4. Claws for Concern

    Claws for Concern Active Member

    I agree completely with Gold and Cousin Jeffrey. Sound advice. Good luck to you if you go.
  5. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    While your ambitions may have not yet been touched by disillusionment, ask yourself two things: do you have $40K to spare, and are you willing to have graduate school provide you with said disillusionment?

    Listen closely: a masters degree from one of the big three is not a golden ticket. It is not a guarantee. You may actually find that your career has been hurt by taking time off to do grad school.
  6. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    My advice: PUNT.
    Go to grad school and get an MBA.
  7. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    Cadet: Even if there is disillusionment, getting a graduate degree would give somebody an opportunity to teach. Also, this guy has some experience.

    Nothing can be more frustrating that ambition which is unfulfilled.
  8. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    What are you looking to cover? International news? Government?
  9. audreyld

    audreyld Guest

    One of my big reasons for going back to grad school was to have my work ripped into and made better.

    They want us all to go straight to the top. We won't all make it, but that's what they're preparing us to aim for.
  10. Confusion

    Confusion New Member

    You know, I actually think so. I think I'd rather spend a week among the Hurricane Katrina refugees, hearing their stories and filing enterprise on it, or on Air Force One, than I would sitting in another coach's press conference, trying to break his cone of silence to find out of the backup fullback's ankle will allow him to practice on Wednesday.

    But - I know this is going to sound elitist, but oh well - I don't want to start off by covering car accidents and Podunk school board meetings any more than I want to cover the prep track beat.

    Mostly I want someone to say, "This sucks. This should go here. This paragraph is contrived. Do it better and this is how," etc., etc., etc. I'm sure I got some of that in undergrad, but I was so full of myself back then. When I was supposed to be learning and absorbing, instead I was taking every assignment as a challenge to show that I was one step ahead of the professors. Dumb. But the truth is, I'm at a bigger paper now than any of my J-school professors ever worked at full-time.
  11. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    I ask because, IMO, those are two good beats to go back to grad school for if you have no previous experience with them.

    My suggestion is to field requests on this site for good schools. Then look them up, read the professor's bios, and maybe contact them. Do this search the right way. A lot of people get sheepish when it comes to contacting people, taking up their time...etc. Nah. Just do it.
  12. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Just IMO: I think you might have a better chance of moving up/out if you take a different attitude toward the way you cover things.

    I don't think anyone *really* wants to cover school board meetings instead of Air Force One, but buying your way into a bigger beat (if that's even possible) isn't going to help you change the world.

    As Cadet said, grad school isn't a be-all, end-all to professional success. If you think you're going to find someone (or somewhere) to solve all your problems ("Do this. Don't do that. Put this there."), you might have another think coming. To me, it sounds like you're looking for something external to figure it out for you internally. That ain't gonna happen; it's up to you.

    Grad school can help, sure. Especially when it comes to covering a beat you've never worked. And if you ever want to get out of the business, grad school can help more. ... But if the qualifications you listed are accurate, you might be better served to stay on the career path (maybe move over to news side instead of sports), and work harder on connections to get to a better gig. Sounds like you're on your way, if the "elitism" doesn't get you off track.
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