Journalism Students Uneasy About Job Prospects Hit with a recession, many newspapers and other media outlets are announcing additional cutbacks and layoffs. At the University of Missouri, Columbia, one of the nation's top journalism schools, many aspiring young reporters expect to graduate without a job in hand.

Journalism Students Uneasy About Job Prospects

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Word came today that the Rocky Mountain News will close its doors on Friday, further proof that the newspaper industry has yet to find its place in the age of the Internet. With a recession further complicating matters, many papers, as well as other news outlets, are announcing cutbacks, layoffs or worse.

Reporter Sarah McCammon visited one of the nation's top journalism schools. She asked aspiring reporters what they think their professional future will look like.

SARAH MCCAMMON: It's a busy morning in the newsroom of the Columbia Missourian. Journalism students are hunched over their computers working on the day's assignments. A little after 11:00, Professor Tom Warhover points to a large screen displaying the Missourian's Web site.

Professor TOM WARHOVER (University of Missouri, Columbia): What story or story made you feel today, made you angry, made you happy, made you sad?

MCCAMMON: The daily newspaper is written by students here at the University of Missouri, Columbia, home of the nation's oldest journalism school. Warhover asks his students to brainstorm about how the recession is affecting them.

Prof. WARHOVER: The biggest story of 2009, barring events, is the economy, right? That's duh, right? But your own personal experiences can come into play here, okay?

MCCAMMON: Right now the economy is especially bad news for these students. When they graduate, they'll head into an industry that shed a staggering 15,000 jobs in the newspaper sector alone last year.

Ms. EMILY YOUNKER: My name is Emily Younker. I'm from Joplin, Missouri. My goal is to get a job in journalism when I graduate in May. I am starting to think about plans B and C, just in case that doesn't really happen.

MCCAMMON: Another student, Chad Day, is a senior here. He's planning to intern at a newspaper this summer and then look for another internship if he can't find a job. Day says he's also trying to think beyond print journalism, learning to work with video and audio.

Mr. CHAD DAY: I'm worried, but I'm also hoping that I can do some things now and try to be proactive about it, so that when I get out there maybe I can persuade somebody to hire me.

MCCAMMON: About 25 years ago, Brian McTavish was also a young reporter looking for a job. He started out freelancing for his hometown newspaper, The Kansas City Star, before he was hired to cover arts and entertainment full-time and held onto that job for more than two decades. McTavish was laid off in September.

We meet for coffee at a restaurant called The Brick, across the street from the newspaper. McTavish is a tall man with glasses and an almost boyish energy. He reminds me he's used to being on the other side of the table.

Mr. BRIAN MCTAVISH (Journalist): So many times when I would chat with people, when I was interviewing them, I desperately wanted to say stop, stop, stop, but I'll keep going.

MCCAMMON: McTavish admits he's not quite over the shock of losing his job. Even so, he would think twice before discouraging a young person from going into journalism.

Mr. MCTAVISH: If it gives you goose bumps when you're sitting across from somebody, and you're getting them to tell you what's really on their mind so you can share that with other people, I'd say go for it. I would not discourage anybody from following their so-called dream. Will your dream turn into a nightmare? Well, so what?

MCCAMMON: Back at the University of Missouri, Chad Day says every aspiring young reporter he knows is worried about what's happening in the industry, but he says he's still determined to be a journalist.

Mr. DAY: I think that those of us that are kind of driven to do this, we may be pessimistic, maybe not be making the best, wisest decision right now, but I think that I wouldn't change - I wouldn't change my decision.

MCCAMMON: Day's father is a carpenter, and he told him to find a career he loves so much he'd work for free. And as graduation gets closer, and the news about the news business gets worse, Day hopes he doesn't have to take that advice literally.

For NPR News, I'm Sarah McCammon.

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