The NYC Jack of All Trades

It’s no secret that being a Jack of All Trades is the key to being a good intern in NYC, especially in journalism. An intern has to not only write well,  but also have a good eye for story ideas, be hungary for content, be organized to a tee, have multimedia skills and oh, maybe, know a few coding languages on the side. A good writer is no longer just a good writer; they are a photojournalist, a web developer and they can produce their own multimedia packages. Knowledge is becoming more and more available, and with that, us interns have the challenge of mastering that knowledge (and the skills that ensue). And in a brutal city like NYC, this is a necessity, not a perk.

I got a sense of this new necessity during my first weeks at the UN. Walking into my internship, I was asked to not only plan a 10k, promote a film, create a professional brochure/postcard but also design a website, develop that website and possibly produce some films later on about migration. Right there, there was the jobs of an event planner, web designer, web developer, film producer and editor, all tied up nicely as me: the journalism student. Although I was able to accomplish all these tasks, it showed me just how many skills I had to learn to effectively do my job.

But the phrase “jack of all trades” came to mind when talking with Caleb Silver at CNN Money. He was deadset on saying he needed an intern could film, edit, produce and storyboard a package, if not more. He wanted more content for cheaper (and quicker if I might add). I got the same feeling from Illeana at the Huffington Post and Sean Sposito from the American Banker; media interns need to know more and do more to be a marketable item, especially in NYC. It is no longer possible to be just a great writer; you have to do it all.

Although I understand the reasoning, it got me thinking of how this new necessity might actually be counterproductive. In talking about the Convergence track in the J-school, I always argued that isn’t it better to become an expert in one area rather than medicore in five areas? Does this new “Jack of All Trades” profile for journalists hurt good journalism?

There are good arguments for both sides, but I think it is an issue to consider when each one of us journalism interns is not only writing copy and interviewing, but also filming, producing and editing our own multimedia packages (and maybe coding it  into the website on the side). Will we ever be masters of one subject or always performing 10 tasks at an adequate level? Will the “Jack of All Trades” title ensue even after those intern years?

The jury is still out on this one, but it is something valuable to consider as we navigate the New York media landscape and eventually enter the job market next year.

– Harriet White


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