By Lillian Wu
GLENDALE, Calif. – Students from around Southern California gathered at KABC Studios on March 27 to get advice from top professionals in journalism at the AAJA Career Workshop for Students, as the panel of experts explained how to get a job in journalism and go on to success.
KABC-TV evening news anchor David Ono joined the panel as the moderator. Four panelists represented major media outlets, and each spoke about their journalism experience and gave students career advice.
Millie Martinez, executive producer at KABC-TV, stressed the importance of a well-written cover letter by reading examples, which ranged from simple to sublime. Martinez was touched by a prospective intern’s passion for the field. “I need to know something that makes me say, ‘I want to meet this person,’” she said.
In addition, she said to apply to many internships and to learn as much as possible about every department by asking questions.
Another panelist who emphasized cover letters and internships was Randy Hagihara, senior editor for recruitment at the Los Angeles Times. Like Martinez, he wants to read letters that convey a student’s enthusiasm rather than information summarized from their resume.
Hagihara said that he is always happy to talk to students. He advised aspiring journalists to have the following trait: “It’s important to have people who come into the business to be immensely curious. Curiosity is a requisite for good reporting.”
Ken Lee, a reporter who focuses on courts and crimes for People magazine, said the hardest part of his job is being on call to quickly report stories. Never refuse an assignment no matter how large or small the story, he said, and “treat every story like it could win a Pulitzer.”
He also said to not be afraid to freelance since a person could meet new contacts and collect a diverse range of clips.
Lawrence Yee, senior content producer at Yahoo!, also encouraged freelance writing through blogging. Consider your interests when writing and write constantly, he said.
As a freelance blogger, a person could easily post their work though it “has to be right and has to be accurate,” Yee said. He cautioned students to be careful with posting unwanted information on the Internet, because everything is searchable and permanent.
At the end of the presentation, students were invited to ask the panelists questions they had about the field. Marlene Perez, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism at California State University, Fullerton, learned about the event from an e-mail her college counselor sent. She said, “They answered a lot of the questions that I had in my head. They were very genuine and very real.”
“I think Ken was very real and he held nothing back,” Perez continued. “I think that’s what gets them [the journalists] out there. They have to find the real stories, the truth. That’s what reporting is about.”
After the panel discussion, the students were led on a studio tour, which included Studio A and the news and control rooms, by Diane Medina, manager of diversity programs and community relations for KABC-TV. For some students, entering the set was a surreal moment. Kelly Stringham, a print journalism major at Cal State Long Beach, said, “It was a little bit more magical to see it behind the scenes.”
Maricela Lopez, a broadcast journalism major at Cal State Long Beach, said she appreciated that she could be there. “Everyone was so nice and open,” Lopez said. “I was excited to meet David Ono because I watch him every day.”