2020’s graduate landscape: OTR’s hopeful uni-leavers

2020 was truly a year of unpredictability, but these journalism students prevailed, carrying hope and confidence into an unforeseen graduate landscape. (Image source: Getty images via Forbes)

By Helen Karakulak @Helen_Karakulak & Marco Krantis | @KrantisMarco

The initial impact of COVID-19 in South Australia meant events were cancelled or capped on guests, hand sanitiser stations became easier to spot than public restrooms, and we all became increasingly aware of personal space (1.5 metres, that means you sir in the pasta aisle!).

More seriously, we’ve navigated border closures, an increase in unemployment and a nearing recession. Reports of the worsening job market in Australia have sparked cynicism, and forged doubt in the minds of those working hard for their diplomas in such unprecedented circumstances. 

However, now that the end is near, these journalism students from UniSA are as prepared as they can be, having been advantaged by the value of student-run publications. 

The 2020 editor of On The Record and SA Press Club’s highly commended Student Journalist, Nikita Skuse, believes having a student-run publication is crucial to professional development.

“You can learn all the theory you want in class but having a publication where you can put it into practice is helpful to overcome the fear of having people read your work,” Nikita said. 

“Obviously you have to get over that if you want to be a journalist and having a platform to have a voice as a student is so important.”

On The Record journalist and sub-editor, Sezen Bakan, agrees that having such a platform gave her insight into working in a professional setting. 

“Getting that professional atmosphere, pitching stories and editing others … I feel like it was good preparation for future professional practice,” Sezen said. 

On The Record’s social media editor and SA Press Club’s Student Journalist of the year, Jasmin Teurlings, believes that applying these practical skills is crucial and have helped her feel optimistic. 

“I am worried about my job prospects, but I’ve had enough opportunities that I think there are enough for those that want them, have worked hard through university and developed a good reputation, so I’m not too worried.”

Looking back on their experiences, we spoke to Nikita (NS), Sezen (SB) and Jasmin (JT) about what they got out of their degree and how they plan on navigating the journalism industry moving forward. 

Reinventing the wheel 

The graduate landscape has differed from previous years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the need to adapt has long been something these creative industry students are aware of. 

JT: I think we need more creative minds in the world, even artificial intelligence hasn’t been able to replicate creativity just yet. I would love for someone to be able to reinvent the wheel for journalism and find a more profitable business model and I hope our generation will be able to do that.

SB: Everything is going on the internet now, which is great, everything is becoming fast paced. I’m sure ten years from now the journalism industry will be changed and we won’t recognise it. I think it is adaptable, there is a place for journalism in a society.

NS: It’s a sad time but I think if the government can step up and give more funding like they are to lots of other industries and not just leave us [creative industries] behind then I think we can come back from this.

What it means to adapt

SB: Back in the day, there used to be a journalist, photographer and sub-editor to get it all together. These days journalists are expected to source their own photos and edit their own work

JT: I think journalism is heading in a way where journalists can’t just be a print journalist, they can’t be television or radio journalists, they’ve got to be multi-platformed. For me, a minor in digital media was really helpful to be able to expand or develop content and alter it to suit a specific medium. I’ve found that really helpful in my internships to be able to say ‘hey I can use the Adobe Creative Cloud software,’ I’m not just a writer, I’m not just a newsreader, I have other skills to back it up.

NSI think in these times where it’s a lot harder to get employed, being a freelancer is probably a lot more realistic. I’ve recently been interning with web designer, Stuart Baulk, at Sleeping Bear, I didn’t really know what to expect, but it’s been great. He’s helped me develop my own website and taught me a lot about the freelancing world. 

“One of those people”

SB: I’m 100 per cent concerned for job prospects for the future, journalism is kind of being looked down upon as being not so useful to Australian’s these days. That’s being shown in the lack of funding to news organisations and all the job losses this year

JT: I think the journalism industry gets a very bad rep, I told someone the other day that I was studying journalism and she was like “oh, one of thosepeople” and yes, one of those people is holding your government to account. Without us we’d be much poorer for it and that’s what I fear more so than my own career in this industry. If we don’t have a journalism industry to turn to, that’s scary, and I’m not just scared for myself out of self-interest, I’m scared for our democracy in general if we don’t have that fourth estate. 

The benefits of student publications like On The Record

SB:I’ve learnt how important balancing workloads are, between university, work, and lifestyle. Also, how important it is to have a team of likeminded, supportive people that are in the same field as you. Ready to give their opinion and help you out when needed.

NS: I feel like there’s so much of a gap in the degree where you don’t really write much. If you’re not doing something like this, you can forget [journalism skills] so quickly. I’ve learnt so much more from writing for On the Record than I have in any of my classes, like getting feedback from editors and now editing myself, having to learn all the different styles and adhere to a style guide. It’s not something I think I would have picked up in class, so I think it’s just generally made me a much better journalist doing this.

JT:  I think it’s wonderful that we have the opportunity to be able to get a portfolio of published work out there. It certainly helps especially with our assessment pieces, it’s pointless if you write a really great story but have nowhere to publish it so you can always turn to OTR to do that so it’s really helpful. 

Their work so far 

SB:My favourite [story] would have to be Justice for Aboriginal Youth. I started writing it back in 2018, for a group assignment. With the Black Lives Matter movement kind of resurging in America this year, I got permission from my group members, re-wrote it, updated it, I did the interviews. I think people don’t really consider, when they think of Black Lives Matter, they think of America whereas here it is actually a huge problem for Aboriginals and Torres Straight Islanders, so that was what I was proud of writing.

NS: I wrote about men who have sex with men that can’t donate blood. Even if you’ve been in a relationship for years and you’ve been tested … you still can’t donate blood. I interviewed this couple, one is a nurse and one is a medical student, and they both were starting this petition about it … they were seeing in their profession how important blood is … so it really affected them. That was the first time I thought a story I wrote potentially had a chance to make a difference even though it was on such a small scale.

JT:Particularly with social media, I really enjoyed trying to make digital content out of stories. [Modelled after the ABC] When the story is newsworthy enough breaking it down with graphics and text in Instagram stories … I’ve done a few on the story archives tab.

Most memorable moments

SB:Probably seeing something I wrote actually published and out there in the world for people to read. My first article was really exciting, and also getting that professional atmosphere, pitching stories and editing others.  

NS: It was so exciting to me to get a position as a journalist last year, I thought it was just the best thing ever, it was really, really exciting to me to join [On The Record]. I felt like everyone else there was so much more experienced than me, and I felt like I didn’t really belong there, but I was like ‘oh this is great that I’m among all these people’.

Then to be head editor this year was really exciting, it made me feel really appreciated that they’d noticed my hard work last year and that I would be good enough to lead—which I personally didn’t think I would be good enough for—so for someone else to believe in me was really nice.

JT:I’m really happy with one of the stories I published, I had some really positive feedback and it was shared by USASA, just getting positive feedback is really nice as a journalist, that’s not why you do it but it helps. 

What they’ll miss 

SB:Writing about whatever I wanted to write about, with OTR as long as you’re not offensive and still journalistically timely and relevant you can write about anything you’re interested in.

NS:  The people – even though it’s been a bit weird this year, we haven’t really seen each other and sometimes it’s a drag having to have a meeting every week and I’m like ‘ah! I can’t be bothered being professional,’ it is quite nice to actually connect with people, so I think I’ll miss that. 

JT: I think I’ll miss the weekly team meetings and having the chance to chat with journalism students. As much as it’s about building up a portfolio for after you graduate, it’s also about being able to mingle with students in the cohort.

Want to see your work on On The Record? Send your submissions to ontherecord.unisa@gmail.com and keep an eye out on our socials for journalist and sub-editor positions for 2021. 

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