Twentysomethings and Matt Gill: What does the future hold?

Last week Chronicle devoted a program to The Millennial Generation, the children of the baby boomers. The program highlighted various young adults who are trying to make a life for themselves post-college. One began a start-up internet company focusing on selling sports stock while another enlisted with the Marines but is waiting to hear if he got accepted into their highly competitive training program. Another young adult is using her nursing degree to work at a nursing home while another works at her parent’s sign company while she looks for other work. The latter young adult is being pushed by her parents to develop a singing career since they feel she has the necessary talent.

The main tread tying all these stories together is the twentysomethings of today are not lazy. Each have found work or are doing whatever it takes to make it in this world. Of course, most are doing so under their Parent’s roof which I endorse only because it provides a safe environment with which to grow and prosper without the stresses associated with having your own place.

It’s fascinating to watch the shift from parent to child and how the thinking has changed. It used to be the norm that a woman would be married by the time she was 20 and a man 22. According to Chronicle, the average age today is 26 for a woman and 28 for a man. The pressure to get married is ridiculous anyways, people should be allowed to settle into their lives first before adding a spouse and children to the mix. I command those who can find themselves and support a family right out of college but that isn’t the path for everyone. I personally feel too young to enter into that phase of my life; I’m not there yet.

What I have learned since graduating from Colby-Sawyer back in May is the job market can be a very daunting place. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and have found the job market pretty bleak. The biggest downfall is most jobs require on the job experience which is hard to come by when companies aren’t hiring.  But even though the cards haven’t been stacked in my favor, I approached the job market though the lens of gaining experience and adding to my resume.

So, what do I love to do? As evident by this blog, I love to write. I get a high from writing and putting my thoughts down on paper. I express myself best through my written word and the ideas just flow out of me. I may not be the world’s greatest proofreader, but those skills come with continued practice. I love to write because that’s how I think. When I see an article in a newspaper or a program on TV of interest, I love to add my two cents and flesh out my ideas on the subject. My mind is constantly going and I’m always thinking about where I fit in the marketplace.

On the subject of writing, I went, last Thursday (Sept. 23), to the Norwell Library to hear Matt Gill talk about writing and his experiences in the field. Gill is the editor of Norwell Mariner, a local newspaper a town over from where I live. He mostly took questions from the audience of about five to six people and he talked about how he’s moved up in the world of journalism starting when he wrote for his college newspaper and then on to when he was a reporter for a local newspaper and now an editor.

Having written for The Colby-Sawyer Courier for four years I could relate to his talk a lot. He said his favorite part of the job is writing headlines and composing photo captions. I always found that to be the hardest part of the job. I could be because I saved headlines for last, and didn’t get to them until 10:30pm on layout nights, or maybe I just haven’t had enough practice with them to develop a knack. Some people just have a gift, I guess.

I took a lot away from his talk. Mostly, he gave me the encouraging news that there are jobs out there. Matt took a much more optimistic view of the job market then I have. I’m glad someone out there is hopeful! The other big impression he made on me was he really only has one writer doing all the work at his paper. I don’t know what I expected, but I thought the work would be spread out to many people. I know our college newspaper wouldn’t have survived if only one person was writing the majority of the stories. In Matt’s case I believe it’s one writer for news and features. I’m not entirely sure about sports. It seems more people would rather write sports than cover a selectmen meeting. I know the feeling, but hard news always interested me more than sports.

The other point he made is, pictures are everything. He held up a copy of the Mariner showcasing a full front page picture of Robert Nyman’s funeral. It was a particularly striking photograph with an American Flag flanking the left side of the page and mourners on the bottom. The written copy was at the top. In a case like that, the picture really does tell the whole story and beautifully. Photos are always the first place the eye tends to travel and people judge an article based on the accompanying pictures.

Another comment he made is the vast difference between the printed page and the web. The Norwell Mariner only comes out weekly, so he compared their online operation to that of a daily. Our newspaper at school hadn’t gone the extra mile to putting their paper on the web yet, so that’s the area of operation I have the least experience with. I did redesign the website for our radio station my junior year, but that’s a whole other beast entirely.

The web is a presence that can’t be ignored anymore. People look to the web to get their news almost more than they look to the printed page. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing the Millennial Generation would rather get their news online. Why not? It’s quicker then having to purchase a newspaper and it’s at our fingertips. The world today is all about convenience. But that need for convenience always comes with a price; a trade-off.

It isn’t called a generational gap for nothing…

Of course, the lingering question is, what about the printed page? There are those who grew up with printed newspapers who still want them in their hands. I can’t argue with that; the printed page is an essential part of our culture. Gill predicted the printed page will never disappear entirely; we just may have to pay a premium for it.

The reason the printed page is so essential is the interactive quality of it. When you have a newspaper you can easily cut out articles and send them to people or post them on a community bulletin board. Printing out the same article from a website is quite different; the layout isn’t the same and pictures may be smaller than they would appear in print. Trust me, it isn’t the same. Physical newspapers are invaluable to our culture.

One woman at the talk said that while online she’s always in search mode having to seek out the articles she wishes to read. There isn’t any seeking in physical newsprint, you go the section and find the article. It just makes life easier.

Coming away from Gill’s talk, I realized something. I really did learn a lot about the business while at Colby-Sawyer. I related to many of the points he made because I had been there myself over the past four years. I’ve written headlines and photo captions. He said he’s always had trouble writing leads to his articles and I’ve been there, too. I’ll always be indebted to donna berhorn, my journalism professor, for giving me the grounding I need to make it in this world. When I think of where I was when I first started…I can only cringe. Looking back at some of my first articles, it looks like a toddler wrote them. I can only imagine what my high school articles look like. I don’t even want to know.

The Chronicle episode ended with a startling statistic: only 30% of college students graduate in four years; this according to Craig Brandon, a former professor at Keene State who has written a book entitled The Five Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up On Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It.

He says a big reason for the extra year is the leniency by colleges to let their students drop classes even up to the final exam. This leads to, according to Brandon, students not having enough credits to graduate in four years. I agree, the issue is with colleges who make it far too easy for students to drop classes but the blame is more with the students than the institution. Students need to buckle down and get it done. Just because it’s easy to drop a class doesn’t mean students should be dropping classes.

I’m proud to say that I’m among that 30% who graduated in four years and that I’m a part of the Millennial Generation. I’m not the only one burdened by the economy nor am I the only one who has to take a creative approach to getting my life on track. I’m heading in the appropriate direction and I know everything is going to work out sooner or later.

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