An Industry in Flux: Media and Publishing students not to be discouraged

21 June 2012

Digital media
"Digital media success depends on knowing how to work across multiple media platforms and having transferable storytelling and publishing skills", says Dr Fiona Martin.

Monday's announcement of job cuts and a restructure to the print operations of the Sydney Morning Herald has caused widespread debate about the future of journalism in Australia. A similar announcement from News Ltd yesterday confirmed there is to be a widespread shift in the Australian media landscape.

Dr Fiona Martin, Senior lecturer in Online and Convergent Media at the University of Sydney believes that students looking to a career in journalism and publishing should not be discouraged. She argues that media studies - and publishing in particular - are more important than ever.

"This is just an industry in flux. It might seem that anyone with good ideas and a twitter account can become an overnight media star, but that's hardly the case. Digital media success depends on knowing how to work across multiple media platforms and having transferable storytelling and publishing skills", says Fiona.

Kevin O'Brien, Senior Editor at book publisher Random House agrees, "the public's appetite for stories - both of the true kind and the made-up kind - is as insatiable as ever, and this is an exciting time to be professionally involved with them."

"The challenge is in knowing which skills will be in the highest demand in the future, and this is where a publishing degree is so valuable, in giving you a good grounding in all of them and getting you thinking about the possibilities", says O'Brien.

"There's no doubt that publishing and journalism are going through great changes, but what this means is that opportunities are there for the taking - provided you've got the skills", he says.

Jacqueline Breen, who graduated in 2011 with a BA (Media and Comms), found her course equipped her for this ever-changing industry.

"The Media & Communications degree initiates students across several media, so that definitely helps in the multi-platform world" says Jacqueline, who works as a researcher in ABC Radio's current affairs unit.

She sees her time at the University of Sydney as pivotal to acquiring her position at the ABC.

"The MECO department helped me get an internship at the ABC…and then I walked into a job at the very bottom of the ladder and just concentrated on the next rung and the next rung", states Ms Breen.

There are also many journalists and publishers who are thriving in the current media environment.

"Australia's new media stars are often consummate old media performers" say Fiona Martin, "like Mia Freedman, who's built the online brand Mamamia but is still a print columnist, Tim Burrowes, the editor in chief of Mumbrella and Encore magazine, who formerly edited B&T or Alan Kohler, former print journalist, current television economist and founder of the Business Spectator website."

"Indeed Australia's top ten bloggers are all active in book publishing, print, television or radio", Dr Fiona Martin explains.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Media & Communications program has been offered it's highest number of placements at Fairfax this winter, with two students preparing to work for four weeks at the news desk, two set to work on supplements, one in the sports department and two at the Sunday Herald.

Jacqueline Breen would encourage all students to take advantage of the "incredible" internship program. "There are so many opportunities here and overseas…you'll find it challenging, exhilarating, eye opening and a whole lot of fun".

In addition to hands-on internships, students can expect to experience a collaborative learning environment that equips them with a variety of the now commonly-utlilised skills in a media or publishing career.

"We have integrated online journalism, publication design and online governance and cultures so that graduates are well grounded in the emerging worlds of social media", says Dr Martin.

"Media and Communications is merging with the university's Digital Cultures to develop exciting new directions in media education".

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Contact: Kate Mayor

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