The Kind of People Going Into Journalism Has Changed: Are They Now Too Big City, Too Smart, Too Full of Themselves?

Budding journalists: It’s obviously exciting to feel career progress. But you don’t have to work or or or other names to be doing worthy work. Journalism is important and needed everywhere. —Tweeted by Theodore Kim, Director of Newsroom Fellowships and Internships at the New York Times.

While editing the Washingtonian magazine, I worked with probably 600 interns over the past 40 years and one of the biggest changes was seeing many more budding journalists coming from relatively affluent families and graduating from top colleges. While their parents may have made their money in business, their kids found business boring, they didn’t want to be lawyers—that also could be boring—and journalism sounded interesting.

They wanted to help change the world—they saw the possibility of being Woodward or Bernstein. And the Washingtonian interns I talked with wanted to be in places like Washington, New York, Boston, and other cosmopolitan cities. They seemed to want to be around big city people who saw the world the way they did. I can remember only one Washingtonian intern who took my advice to go to a small newspaper (in Salisbury, Maryland) where she could get solid reporting experience covering a police beat, local government, school boards.

Many of the new kind of journalists seemed certain they were smarter than their readers—they often were—and they wanted to educate readers as to how they should think about the helping hand of the federal government or such issues as immigration.

The change has helped trigger a backlash, creating what some people call fake news. Many of the stories the critics don’t like aren’t really fake, but more stories—in print, on television, on the Internet—are from journalists who are coming up with the headline first and then doing enough reporting to make the story look like real journalism.

As journalism continues its shift from fading print to full digital, a reader of the Bezos-owned Washington Post may now feel that many Post reporters and columnists are mostly delivering all the digital clickbait that fits into 48 pages of newsprint.

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