Monthly Archives: May 2011

Navigating the career waters

It’s been a busy May Term for me, as I’ve been a part of Coop 119, Simpson’s job shadowing course. Originally, I signed up for the course hoping to meet professionals and make a few connections that might lead to a job or internship sometime in the future. The shadowing experience has been more however, giving me an inside glimpse of the workings of three media outlets, Iowa Public Televsion, WHO and the Des Moines Register. At the end of it all, I’m even more fired up for the professional world, but even less sure of my “plans.”

On my final day of shadowing, I spent time with several editors and reporters at the Des Moines Register, a paper I’ve always admired. At times, I’d say I even aspire to work at the paper. But, everybody knows the talk about newspaper jobs being hard to find and keep. When I set up my shadowing at the Register, I thought that maybe I could finally confront some of those rumors and talk to professionals about their perceptions. Should I have been surprised at what I found? Maybe not, but here’s basically what two different employees at the paper told me.

Writer 1: Newspapers have been going through a lot of layoffs, but the people who did the best work are still here and newspapers are still functioning.

Writer 2: Keep your options open, the newspaper industry isn’t really that healthy.

So, in the midst of planning a career, or at least a general direction, I find myself asking, who’s right and who’s wrong here? I think after a few days of contemplating though, that this is the wrong question. Really, as a journalism student, you have to appreciate and consider both pieces of advice. The right question to be asking is how can I use my skills as leverage to get a job in journalism. And the answer to that question, I realized after shadowing at WHO and the Register, is something we were told on the first day of Beginning News Writing and Reporting, that digital journalism is the future of journalism.

That last sentence isn’t really a revelation to anybody, but sometimes I don’t think students don’t quite grasp the concept of using the web as a news tool. In an informational interview I had to conduct for the class, I was told by Rod Peterson, WHO’s news director, that, indeed, he is looking for new hires who are fluent with social media. But he went a step further and told me, “it’s not just about people who can say, ‘oh yeah, I’ve sent a tweet,’ but it’s about people who realize the full scope of the tool.” After all, he reminded me, Twitter and Facebook are toppling governments.

And although I’m still not sure of my exact career plans (and we’re all still struggling to figure out how to get a job in the world of communications), I do take pride in the fact that my education thus far has emphasized many of the previously mentioned tools. I’ve now seen firsthand that I do possess the skill set necessary to go into journalism and that alone is assuring.

And if this post seems a little rambling or directionless to any readers, I apologize. Next time I won’t blog and listen to the Old 97’sat the same time.


Folkin’ Around

It’s May Term at Simpson College and things are generally a little more laid back. So, I’m taking this post in a new direction to reflect a little of the relaxation that all students have been experiencing now that finals are over and summer is drawing near.

While browsing Twitter streams yesterday, I came across a bluegrass/roots/folk musician I wasn’t familiar with, Sarah Jarosz, a budding singer/songwriter out of Texas. Apparently, despite thinking of myself as a connoisseur of the genre, I’m a little behind the times when it comes to Jarosz’s music. However, I dug into NPR’s live stream of her new album, “Follow Me Down,” and came out on the other side with some fresh perspective on acoustic music.

One aspect of Jarosz’s music that struck me from the outset of “Follow Me Down” was the dark undertones explored in her music. The opening track, “Run Away,” tells the story of a seemingly forbidden romance, with the narrator urging her partner that now is the time to run away together. For me, with it’s fingerpicked melody and haunting guitar phrases, the song conjures images of the deep south.

Follow me down through the cotton fields, moon shadows shine bright the way you will. Lead us down a road, where no one goes, we can run away… 

Overall, it’s a beautifully crafted song that opens the album well. The next standout came with track three, another haunting piece, “Annabelle Lee,” an Edgar Allen Poe poem adapted and set to music. Here, Jarosz demonstrates her superb clawhammer banjo skills.

Jarosz chose a few interesting covers for “Follow Me Down,” including Radiohead’s, “The Tourist,” and Bob Dylan’s, “Ring Them Bells.” The latter, I’ve heard multiple covers of, however, I’m highly impressed by Jarosz’s. Featuring a chiming dobro solo that I assume is played by dobro master Jerry Douglas, the song has a bright and uplifting feel, relatively absent even in Dylan’s version.

After a full listen of Jarosz’s album, which also includes some killer instrumentals, it’s easy to see where she’s coming from. Her music carries a tradition and sounds forged by bands like Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers (she’s actually jammed with the Punch Brothers, producing this video). It’s rooted in traditional bluegrass and folk, but also carries a sound of its own. All I can say is I hope she travels to Iowa soon!