Journalism scholarships help in a shrinking field

Newspapers are fading from the media, and journalism scholarships for print-focused students are slowly heading down the same road. The evolving field forces students to no longer specialize in just writing.

"The one-position journalist is dying, if not dead. Today's journalist must be able to report, write, shoot still photos and video, design and have knowledge of website technology," said senior Rod Guajardo, editor of Auburn University's The Auburn Plainsman. With the development of this journalism jack-of-all-trades, the competition is getting tougher and the pay is still minimal.

Many publications are switching to freelanced work, making it even harder for recent graduates to find a reporting job that will help pay off the college debt. The average starting salary for a newspaper journalist is only $20,000, with a career average of $35,000. Journalism scholarships are one way to help lessen the financial burden.

Universities, private foundations and press associations offer a variety of journalism scholarships, but most of them don't help too much when a four-year education costs tens of thousands of dollars. International students and those who are interested in foreign journalism have a plethora of options for journalism scholarships. Photojournalists and broadcast journalists are also in luck. For the standard print journalist, though, very few journalism scholarships cover more than $1,000.

Guajardo is one of the lucky few to have a journalism scholarship that covers his full senior year tuition. Auburn's journalism department offers one full-tuition scholarship to one student, and the remaining ones are $1,000 or less. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers numerous journalism scholarships around $5,000 or less, but many of those include compensation for an internship.

While the journalism scholarship definitely helps, Guarjardo didn't choose his major based on financial incentive. He committed to the field because of his passion for photography and writing, and a scholarship finally became reality for him last year. He says the changing journalism field doesn't intimidate him and he doesn't worry about earning a small paycheck.

"I am willing to accept that journalism is a career where the amount of work you put in does not reflect the paycheck you receive," he says. "I would much rather be getting paid less for something I enjoy and love doing, than getting paid more for something I hate to do."

With journalism scholarships offering little enticement and traditional reporting jobs disappearing, the competition is stiff and only the dedicated make it through.
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