Page Banner Background


What do you wish you’d known before entering journalism? Advice from the board

We all wish we knew 10, 20, 30 years ago what we know now. Unfortunately we aren’t able to time travel to fix past mistakes, but we can learn from people who have been there. I asked some of the professionals on the SPJ board what they wish someone had told them when they were entering the field:

Oren Campbell, retired journalist: “If you want to get ahead, you can’t sit around and wait for things to happen. You must find ways to improve your ability as a journalist — master a foreign language, attend professional development seminars, encourage frequent critiques of your work by those you respect.”

Paul Balcerak, social media strategist, formerly with KIRO: “Your name is probably the most valuable thing you own, so protect it, and don’t let anyone tell you what you can do with it. Your blog, your social media presence — that’s important stuff that you should own. If an employer/prospective employer tries to put unreasonable restrictions on it or take ownership of it, feel empowered to walk away. You’ll be glad you did.”

Breanne Coats, SPJ president and writer at the Business Examiner: “I wish I had known more about social media. I was nervous to jump into the new reporting techniques and wish I had been more willing to grab the bull by the horns…. Since I had only done internships before, I hadn’t really developed a lot of sources before. I wish I had known it was okay to get to know my sources. You have to keep a line between you and your sources, but you also need to build trust.”

Monica Guzman, columnist at The Seattle Times and GeekWire: “I wish I would have known that the best way to learn really was to do. There was no shortcut to that. Having entered with a sociology degree, I wondered how much I’d missed having not studied journalism. I now know – not so much. I learned most everything in the field. I also wish I would have known the importance of forming and maintaining good relationships to the craft. I had thought it was all writing, all reporting. But getting to know people, both as sources and as colleagues, is critical.”

Ethan Chung, deputy editor at Premier Media Group: “I actually entered the field a little blind. I was an English major and so I didn’t come from a traditional journalism background (my college didn’t offer journalism classes). I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in writing. I’d interned for my college’s alumni magazine, and that experience provided me with some valuable skills that I levied to land a job at a local magazine. Since I hadn’t come from a traditional journalism background, and I’d never worked in a conventional newsroom, I was lacking some of the essential tools that many journalists have upon entering the field.”

Ola Wietecha is a University of Washington student and an intern with SPJ’s Western Washington chapter. What do you want to know about journalism in our region? Email her at

No Comments

Post A Comment