Letters Home: Bridget Doyle

Bridget Doyle is a reporter for the
Chicago Tribune. She graduated from
the Missouri School of Journalism in
2009 with a degree in magazine
The following letter was submitted June 14, 2012

Choosing to become a journalist in a time when there's very little security in the industry already requires a passion and a leap of faith worth applauding. It's a high-demand, (generally) low-paying field, but it's one of the most rewarding career paths out there. You're changing lives, making personal connections, telling stories and exposing truths. It takes a great amount of commitment and drive to succeed in journalism in 2012, but if you're at the Missouri School of Journalism, you're already forging a path of success. I offer advice not as a journalism veteran, but as a reporter with three years of experience surviving in an exciting and volatile media world.

Always, always take the extra work. When you land your first internship or job - or even while at the Missourian or Vox - you will stand out if you raise your hand. It's not about just camping out at Lee Hills Hall for face time. When your editor/boss/superior asks who will take on the extra story or work a Saturday shift, volunteer. Sure you'll whine and grumble to your friends when they're headed to tailgate on Saturday and you're rolling six notebooks deep, but the extra effort is what bosses notice. Be the person who's willing to step up and take the unwanted work without expecting extra compensation. It's a tough business out here right now, and it's the people that haven't become complacent that most often hold onto their job.

Be confident, but humble. There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness - tread lightly. With a thinning staff, your editors want to see that you are not afraid to take on bigger, more difficult stories. Know that you have the background and the capability to tackle anything your boss gives you. Don't be too proud to ask questions. Walk around the newsroom with your head high and talk to superiors and seasoned veterans. Invite them to coffee, ask them for advice. But always remember your place in the beginning. If you are an intern or a young reporter/staff member, keep your humble pants on. Treat those higher than you with respect - they deserve it.

Don't get discouraged. I applied for dozens of big name summer internships while in school. Hearst, Time Warner, Condé Nast - you name it. I scored an interview with one in 2008, but didn't end up getting the position. At the time, I was devastated. I questioned my abilities and my desire to stick with such a competitive field. But don't give up. The big wigs can't always see your drive and talent on paper, so don't take it personally. Apply to every internship and job you can and don't get discouraged by rejection. Persevere through the hunt. When you land your first job, it'll be the best feeling in the world.

Get out of your hometown. Signing up for the J-School's New York summer program was one of the best things I did. Before settling into a career, use the summers to explore your options outside of your parent's basement. I was positive I wanted to end up in New York, so I signed up for the program my junior year and got a three-month editorial internship. It was a glorious summer filled with restaurant exploration, new friends and media tours. But I chose Chicago after college because I knew, after exploring, that's where my heart was. It's important to go explore different media atmospheres and cities, it'll help you grow as a person and a journalist. Try Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle - heck, even Kansas City. Use your summer internships to grow.

Make them notice you. For the first six months of my first job out of college, my boss affectionately (at least I hope affectionately) dubbed me the "Twitter stalker." Why? Because when I was applying for jobs, I used Twitter to follow everyone at the company and re-tweet their stories. This was back in 2009 when Twitter wasn't what it is today - it was a bit more forward. I knew hundreds of people were applying to the open reporter position and I had to find a way to stand out. Professor Jen Rowe gave me some of the best advice when I was at Vox - make them see you. If you apply to an internship, send the bosses an email alerting them of your interest. Call the office every week asking for the status. Don't be annoying - but persistent. Resumes all begin to look the same after a while, so help them see you.

In the end, it's up to you to survive in the current journalism world, and you're every bit capable of succeeding. Work hard, stay grounded and never lose sight of why you love this business. We'll survive through the digital shift and come out stronger - I just know it.

Bridget Doyle
BJ '09 Magazine
Reporter, Chicago Tribune

Check out the rest of the Letters Home series

Editor's note: If you're a Mizzou journalism alum who would like to contribute to the Letters Home series, send us an email at onamizzou@gmail.com with your letter, your name, your sequence and graduation year, your current job and contact information.

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