Working in student media can be rewarding, but it can also be incredibly time-intensive. For students in media-related majors, working for student media can be a way to get experience while still in school. However, some student media positions are unpaid but still demand a great deal of time and effort. Balancing the risks and rewards of working in student media can be tricky, but it comes down to who you are as a student and who you want to be as an aspiring media professional.
Student media is appealing to many students because it offers so much experience and exposure. Student media jobs also build resumes and can teach students many marketable skills, such as how to use editing or design software. Working for student publications is difficult, however, because any failures are fairly public. At larger universities, student newspapers can be delivered to dorm rooms. Though all students usually don’t read the paper, making a mistake is still a public occurrence, and your name will be connected to your work.
In the larger world of life in college, one typo or confusing word choice won’t mean much. However, making bigger editorial mistakes about using the wrong term to describe a group or misrepresenting an academic department or professor are also a possibility. This is both a blessing and a curse. Students who contribute to student media learn about mass media and how to communicate effectively in a fairly controlled environment. Student media can be thought of as riding a bike with training wheels. You learn what to do and how to do it, and your failures happen on a smaller scale. This prepares you to take on the world of mass media as a college graduate, with the added experience of knowing what it means to place a comma in a certain spot or capitalize a seemingly meaningless word.
Student media also offers students many opportunities for advancement. Many student publications are headed by an editor-in-chief who is also a student. Starting in an unpaid position allows students to decide if they enjoy working for student media and gives them experience that will be beneficial in applying for larger roles in these publications.
In student media roles both large and small, students at many colleges are able to work with an adviser. These advisers, usually members of the school’s faculty, offer insight and sometimes help students make important decisions about their publication. For students about to begin media careers, advisers are often both the first and most important resources in their new professional network. Advisers see many students through college and into the professional world, so they have a great deal of connections. They are an important resource when looking for internships and recommendations, and students can learn a great deal from them.
Though student media can equip a college student for their career and later life, nothing is given to student media workers. They work for every bit of their media network and line on their resume, and the work is difficult. Working in student media takes time, effort and dedication. Students must be committed to what they are doing and believe that it is important. There are many different roles in student media, and there is usually room for everyone interested, especially in entry, unpaid positions. It takes special people to keep up the momentum from an entry position into the role of editor or contributor, but those people have so many exciting and educational experiences ahead of them.
Student media is a fixture at many colleges and universities. If you are interested in student media, reach out! Those who work in or advise student media love new talent and those who are hardworking enough to translate their talent into media content. Student media is a learning experience of the most complete kind, and it’s an investment of time and effort that pays off.