It’s that time of year again in j-schools across the country. Major news organizations are sending reps to interview top journalism students for summer internship programs. As usual, students who have made the interview shortlists are busy cramming for the interviews, desperate to impress with their skills, experience and passion to be storytellers. Landing a summer job in a newsroom would be their dream come true.

But this year it’s all happening against the backdrop of announced layoffs, hiring freezes, suspenions of internship programs  and warnings that things will only get worse in newsrooms across the country.  In Canada, first it was the news that Canwest would eliminate 560 jobs across the country. Then it was CTV’s turn. So far the CBC has announced there will be no layoffs — at least for now.

We read and hear a lot about the impact of these cuts on today’s journalists and newsrooms.  We don’t hear much about the impact it’s having on students — the students who competed hard to get into popular journalism programs, then worked hard for years to meet the requirements and are now about to head into what is the worst job market in years.

To the surprise of many, especially journalists, it has always been true that some students take journalism degrees even though they don’t want to be journalists. Maybe they once did, but changed their minds along the way and decided to complete the program anyway. Maybe they never really did. Still, they saw some value in learning writing, communication and critical thinking skills, as well as learning to meet tight deadlines. They put those skills to good use in any number of places from grad school, to law school, to jobs in government and the private sector. 

Clearly, though, others are here because their dream is to be a journalist. They remain enthusiastic about the idea of getting paid to find and tell stories. They are able to work in any medium, willing to work in more than one medium at a time. They are web savvy.  They are flexible. They do not resist change. In other words, they have what the news media needs to renew itself.

There are those who argue that this is actually an exciting time for journalism because it will have to reinvent itself to survive.  Pat Thornton, at the Journalism Iconoclast makes that point in this post.

“Journalism is at the beginning of a tectonic shift and massive upheaval, and yet, I consider this to be an incredibly exciting time to be in journalism.

We stand on the doorstep of history. We’re watching the reinvention of a critical industry. This is not an evolution — we are a part of a revolution.

And that’s why I’m afraid. I know that journalism will be stronger than ever in 20 years, but what will tomorrow hold? The journey through revolution will claim many careers.”

I hope a few summer jobs for a few journalism graduates this year will keep them inspired and connected enough to this business to be part of the renewal.