If there’s one thing I’ve learned since coming to Sacramento nearly two months ago for my first day of work at Capitol Weekly and the CA Department of Justice, it’s that times are changing. Indeed, times have already changed, and rapidly; more rapidly, I think, than most have yet been able to comprehend, with implications more far-reaching than most had anticipated.
I know I should be writing a sweet, sentimental blog post detailing the wonderful time I’ve had here in Sacramento – because I really have had a wonderful time here in Sacramento. I should be talking about the little things: the times I spent sitting on the porch, the lounge downstairs, my car, obsessively working to improve my writing well past reasonable work hours; my devotion to the vegan sandwiches from Tony’s Deli downtown and my newly-acquired love of artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes; my discovery of educational podcasts, The Rachel Maddow Show, and my subsequent dedication to listening to and reading absolutely everything; and, maybe most importantly, my eventual acclamation to the scorching Sacramento summer heat.
But there isn’t any room for the sweet stuff, at least not at length – not here. I’ve just learned too much this summer just to talk about the ways in which I’ve come to conclusions rather than to talk about the conclusions to which I’ve come.
Let’s get started.
Entire industries, though perhaps not all – at least, perhaps not yet – have been shaken to the core by the emergence of the Internet, and the ways in which technology has developed in recent decades. Law, for example, as almost everyone tells me, is a risky place to be nowadays. That’s because it’s harder to break into the field; there are fewer lower-level jobs available, thanks to the rise of the search engine making research positions less lucrative. It’s certainly no longer the straight shot to the six-figure salary that it once was, despite the seemingly inevitable mountain of debt it leaves students with. For every person telling me I should pursue law school, there are at least a dozen more telling me what a poor decision that would be.
The same holds true for journalism, which also has been irreparably pushed from its niche. I occasionally get looks of sympathy when I express my interest in the field. As I learned in my public affairs journalism class at the UC Center Sacramento, the industry is marked by palpable fear from newsies – print newspapers, apparently, are all but a thing of the past; magazines have died out left and right. TV networks are losing viewers every day.
Those of us passionate about public service and the search for truth no longer have a clear career path for doing so. There’s tumult and unrest, yes. However, there is also hope.
Be brave. Do not be afraid to eat alone. Do not be afraid to work at night and on weekends while others are out partying. Do not be afraid of not yet having had tangible experiences or results. Why? Because you should be learning! And not just about things that are immediately relevant to you. You should be listening to podcasts, streaming NPR, scrolling through Twitter, reaching out to new contacts, planning ahead. Be careful about how you spend your energy! There are a million things you could do every day. Doesn’t mean you should do them. Why not educate yourself in your free time instead of making small talk?
Additionally, social media is bigger than you know. Yes, you could go out and attend dozens of events, meet as many people as possible, talk to everyone, hope that you’ve left a good enough impression so as to be remembered in a few hours. But in this day and age, at least within our age group, it seems better to reach out to potential mentors over social media than to try to meet them by chance in person.
In person, you may be just another intern from Cal asking for a coffee meeting. On LinkedIn, your entire resume and all your accomplishments are immediately available! On Twitter, you can directly contact those who influence you most, all around the world! Depending on who you reach out to, more often than not you’ll even get a direct response and an opportunity to spark a conversation.
In this way, I’ve also learned that, to be a writer – especially in a time period where everything as we know it is changing – one has to be entrepreneurial. For all the change we’ve already seen, I believe we’re only at the beginning. Journalists of the future will have to know print, radio, television, and digital media in order to succeed. They’ll need to shoot their own content, be able to be an entire news crew in one. They’ll need to be prepared to find creative ways of making a living.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that you must show people you have something to say, and then you’ve got to find a way to make them listen to what that is. It’s about using the voice you’ve been given to try to make the world better for everyone.
For all their help in my development of my voice, I would really like to thank my editor John Howard, for being a fantastic mentor. I’d also like to thank Tim Foster, Kathy Brown, and Connor Grubaugh at Capitol Weekly for being so wonderful and interesting to talk to.
Mia Shaw is a UC Berkeley junior majoring in Political Economy and Rhetoric. She is currently interning with the California Department of Justice and Capitol Weekly as a Cal in Sacramento Fellow.