Rachel Richardson, reporter at Cincinnati Enquirer.

(Dec. 8, 2008) I'm a communities reporter with The Cincinnati Enquirer.  I'm one of the lucky few I know of who actually landed a journalism job before I finished my bachelor's degree (in history).  I applied to The Enquirer for three years without ever getting a call back or an interview offer.  Cincinnati is now a one-newspaper town, so it's difficult for aspiring journalists here to land a newspaper position without relocating to a different city or state.  I had interviewed with a local community paper during this time, but couldn't afford to take the job -- they offered just $20-22k a year for someone with a college degree.   I finally got my foothold at The Enquirer not as a reporter, but as a graphic designer.  I had begun learning graphic and web design and print publishing as a hobby and then worked in the field to support myself while I pursued my undergraduate degree.  After a year, my graphics editor was reassigned to head up a new edition of the paper and asked me to come with him as a reporter. 

Our paper is owned by Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper chain.  Things aren't looking so well for Gannett or the newspaper industry in general.  Gannett has had to do two layoffs in the past few months -- first a voluntary buyout program and then forced layoffs just last week.  Those with limited skillsets are usually the first to get the axe. 

So, my advice to aspiring journalists is this: Diversify your skillsets.  Journalists these days must be well-versed not just in writing and copyediting, but also in layout design, graphic and web design, photography, and video and animation.  My multimedia and photography background has been instrumental in me not just landing a position at the paper, but also in my current role as a reporter.  I take most of the photos that run with my stories and I'm beginning to do video work, and I still do special projects for our graphics department.  In short, I have made myself a more valuable employee because I can offer the paper more in terms of skills and flexibility. 


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