How Journalism Has Changed

At the Washingtonian, we had some 600 editorial interns in my 40 years there and in the last 15 years I saw a shift in their ambitions. Early on they mostly were looking for a good editorial job and I often recommended they start at a small newspaper where they could get some solid reporting experience.

Once we were in the digital age, more and more interns said they wanted to work in Washington or New York, or maybe Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, etc.

They didn’t think a journalist needed reporting experience—they were smart enough to figure things out. Their number one priority seemed to be working in an interesting city and be around the kind of smart people they went to college with.


  1. Neil Manson says

    Absolutely. I have the same conversation endlessly with undergraduates about graduate school – many make their list of picks based on the lifestyle they’d lead wherever they would study, rather than about the program.

  2. Martin Stafford says

    Jack, that is a gross misrepresentation of what has occurred. 40 years ago, your editorial interns also would have wanted to go to New York, Los Angeles, etc — but that’s not how the business worked. Their path to a career was to join a small newspaper and work your way up; they weren’t going to get hired by the New York Times right out of school.

    That has shifted. The local newspapers in medium- or small-sized cities are shutting their doors or slashing their budgets. Working for one of those outlets isn’t the road to a career that it once was.

    All of that’s to say: The change isn’t in where young people in 1980 and 2020 want to live, or who they want to hang out with. It’s in the incentives of the journalism industry.

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