If you’ve decided to walk Path Three after graduation — getting a job — you’re going to have to take what you can get. It is true that many fewer newspapers exist today than when I was looking for a reporter’s job. But the number is hardly zero. In fact, 1,300 dailies still operate in the U.S. — down from about 1,700 in the early eighties — and that’s not counting the weeklies and the semi-weeklies. In my day, we found reporter’s jobs by thumbing to the back of Editor and Publisher, the magazine of the newspaper industry, and looking through help-wanted classifieds. Now you go to E&P’s website and do likewise. Remember, too, sites like Reddit, Buzzfeed, and others that churn out lots of copy. If you count online journalism, people are arguably reading more today than ever. So you should be able to find that first reporter’s job. (Do not work for The Huffington Post. They don’t pay writers.)
I hope you’re not one of those people who “has to be near the mountains,” or “couldn’t imagine leaving the beach,” or who places some other geographic limitation on the future. Ditto the dog and the boyfriend/girlfriend. If what you want is to become a writer through newspapering, you’d do well to divest yourself of any limiting factors. Shoot the dog and ditch the sweetheart (but not the other way around) and be prepared to go somewhere you never imagined that you could live. If the job you can get is in Decatur, Alabama, off to Decatur with you. Hastings, Nebraska? See you in Hastings. As soon as you’ve filed your first story, you can start looking for your next job.
And remember this: the big stories of our time exist everywhere. Decaying democracy, poverty, inequality, discrimination, racism, corruption — they all are happening everywhere and need to be exposed with excellent reporting. Don’t tell me that covering school board meetings in Minot, North Dakota, is “boring.” Watching people passionate about public education — whether from a philosophical, Christian, socialist, or other perspective — is fascinating, and makes for reporting essential to the functioning of democracy. Inequality in Hastings is no less important than inequality in Los Angeles. So any place you find that first job will be terrific.