Four years of journalism school may as well be an eternity when considering how quickly the media landscape is changing.
Internet-based media companies have disrupted the old business model and forced legacy companies to adapt. New mediums battle for audience attention, while old mediums shuffle into the digital age or perish. A freshman in 2017 preparing to enter the media workforce in 2021 may be caught off-guard by these changes during the course of their education.
That is unless they are part of the evolution of media production.
One University of Southern California student would witness an entire sea change within the industry before graduation. He also led this change, thanks to the resources and career guidance provided by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and its Annenberg Works initiative. USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and its Annenberg Works initiative.
“USC Annenberg and Annenberg Works provided countless opportunities for me to explore my career path,” 2017 graduate Eli Goodstein said.
Goodstein’s journey from student to employment is documented in the latest installment of WorkingNation’s Do Something Awesome series. Director Melissa Panzer’s short film, “The New Path to News,” continues WorkingNation’s mission to highlight educational programs which are developing a future-proof workforce.
The Future of Media is Now
Since 2015, USC Annenberg and Annenberg Works have revolutionized the school’s model for skills-based instruction and career placement. Together they are serving the needs of journalism students and their future employers by providing a state-of-the-art learning environment and curricula adapted to the evolving demands of the labor market.
“As media is changing so dynamically, one of the things we particularly saw is that students wanted to work more in tech and digital media,” USC Annenberg Director of Career Development Suzanne Alcantara said.
As a junior, Goodstein found himself amid the latest iteration of the digital media revolution. The completion of Wallis Annenberg Hall in 2014 — named in honor of the philanthropist and current Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation — ushered in its purpose as an incubator for a digital-first instructional newsroom.
It also led to Goodstein becoming a founder of USC Annenberg’s first digital and social media department, the Journalism Emerging and Digital Innovation, or JEDI, Unit to fill this edifice. Wallis Annenberg Hall and the Julie Chen/Les Moonves and CBS Media Center were where he discovered his calling.
“When [the hall] opened there were a lot of students who wanted to figure out how to best utilize the new space. I wasn’t introduced to social media content production until I was a junior, but joining this creative and experimental group helped me realize what my true passion was as a journalist: Creating content for people just like me,” Goodstein said.
By placing students like Goodstein in control of the tools that directly transform how people access and consume content, the school is creating a pool of digital native talent that employers desire.
“Our world doesn’t look like theirs,” USC Annenberg’s Interim Director and Associate Dean of Student Affairs Gordon Stables said. “More homes now have Amazon Prime than a landline. We have to be responsible for building curricula and helping students prepare for careers that are evolving so fast. What are the ways to train not only for the jobs of today but the jobs you’re going to be doing for the next five, 10 to 15 years.”
Goodstein developed his real-world skills in the digital newsroom and through his work with Annenberg media’s television network, ATVN. At ATVN, Goodstein was able to hone his journalistic knowledge, but the experience taught him what it really takes to become a modern journalist.
“I am a strong believer in learning by doing. The most important lesson I learned through my experience at ATVN was how to be a one-man band. I wanted to learn everything I needed to know in order to craft a story from pitch to publish. As a multimedia journalist for ATVN, I got to do that,” Goodstein said.
Goodstein was also able to innovate and develop how the school used new mediums, such as Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram, services that exploded into the social media mainstream during his tenure with the JEDI unit.
“It opened me up to a wild, unpredictable and complicated world of news production that no one truly understands yet, but that’s the beauty of it: I am constantly learning and adapting as the industry changes every second. The future of journalism is already here and I just want to be a part of it,” Goodstein said.
These platforms are where audiences have flocked to since their inception. Understanding and utilizing these platforms are skills employers increasingly want.
“If you understand your generation and how they interface with the media, then you have a lot to offer,” USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay said to students at the Future of Work in Media event at Annenberg Hall which also served as the premiere for the DSA mini-documentary on September 26.
The New Path to News
Developing digital skills is not enough for students to capitalize on their investment in their education. A degree from a private institution can cost upwards to $45,000 per year, so it is imperative that students waste no time in launching their careers.
It is also in the interest of schools like USC Annenberg to attract new students based on their strength in guiding graduates to well-paying jobs. A return on investment in education has become a new standard for students to assess their future career goals.
“We are so proactive that [students] cannot get out of USC without having been hit over the head that ‘Your career is important, it’s time to start thinking about your career. Have you done an internship yet?’ So we don’t let students fall through the cracks” Alcantara said.
Annenberg Works is connecting students like Goodstein to employers through workshops and internship opportunities with top companies across the media spectrum.
“When you ask employers what the number one thing they’re looking for, it’s not what school you went to, what your G.P.A. is. It’s what internship experiences you have,” Alcantara said.
Goodstein credited the initiative, created with a generous grant from the Annenberg family, for placing him in his dream internship at CNN. Goodstein went to work in the video news department and utilized the skills he picked up at ATVN. He edited videos, pitched stories, developed content and worked alongside the reporters he watched at home.
Annenberg Works events also taught Goodstein the importance of networking, which guided him through his job search process. At USC Annenberg, there are weekly events such as career treks and career development workshops where students can interact with America’s top media companies.
“I met and networked with recruiters for internship opportunities and then, eventually, jobs. The campus events were essential to understanding the working world,” Goodstein said.
In its short history, Annenberg Works is now hosting recruiters from new media powerhouses Apple, Netflix and Facebook as well as directing students through a talent pipeline to industry stalwarts like the Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal and 21st Century Fox.
“You should go to every event you can in order to understand what employers are looking for in an intern or job candidate. You will also build relationships with recruiters by doing this too., Goodstein said. “The more you go, the better you will get at navigating a conversation with someone at a company you want to intern or work for down the road.”
Understanding the reality of job searching and the importance of soft skills like networking and perseverance which Goodstein learned through Annenberg Works ultimately paid off. But it wasn’t without uncertainty, despite his stellar academic background.
It took Goodstein about three months to finally land his first job in news, at CBS affiliate WTVR in Richmond, Virginia. The job search market intimidated Goodstein, who admitted to WorkingNation’s filmmakers that it “scared him out of his mind.”
He sent out hundreds of applications over this time period but only received about 10 interviews. An initial search where Goodstein said he had a “narrow mindset” for what he wanted out of his first job, was also educational.
Instead of fitting himself into the narrow job requirements of his desired career, he fell back on his experience at ATVN and discovered he had more to offer.
“I became more than my resume by really looking at myself and figuring out how to explain why I was the right person for the job, whether it was for social media or broadcast production,” Goodstein said.
After making the jump from his hometown of Atlanta to Los Angeles for college, Goodstein found himself moving back to the East Coast for his first job as a morning news producer for CBS 6. He said it has taken him about three months to adjust to his new life, but his experience at USC Annenberg prepared him for all eventualities.
“The best part about my job is that I work with people who totally get the ups and downs of working in news, so I’ve been able to enjoy time with them outside of work,” Goodstein said. “Figuring out how to navigate a new place with new faces and new experiences takes time. You need to be brave. You need to be true to yourself. You need to have fun. That’s really the lesson I’ve learned from all of this.”
For journalism students or graduates who are in the beginning their job search, Goodstein also offered this guidance: “Be nice. Be smart. Be passionate. Be ambitious. Be open to everything. It will do you wonders. My other piece of advice is to be patient. You’ll get where you want to be.”