By: Ashley Grasinger
(GREENSBURG, Pa.)- As one of the few journalism majors at Seton Hill University, I wanted to meet with some journalists from the area to get a better understanding of the career and see if they would be willing to share some information about their experience and tips for students.
There are four journalist majors at SHU. There is also a news, art, and sports writing class that many people can take regardless of their major.
Joe Napsha and Rob Owen both graciously agreed to meet with me. They both are writers for the Tribune-Review. Owen covers TV journalism and writes in his section “TV Talk with Rob Owen,” and Napsha is a general reporter covering many different topics.
According to The Career Expert, “there are over 6,536 journalists currently employed in the United States” alone and The Pew Research Center estimates that a “total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2020 was 24.3 million for weekday and 25.8 million for Sunday.”
“As a general assignment reporter [the topic] is sort of picked for you,” said Napsha. “You cover police, you go to courts, you go to fires, fatal accidents. You cover municipal governments and go to school boards of education.”
Both Napsha and Owen had different ways of getting into the field of journalism.
“By my senior year of high school I decided what I really wanted to do was write about television,” said Owen. “Not movies but specifically television because at that time moves were still considered the top media and television was kind of like the red-headed stepchild. Television was really improving and at that time there really wasn’t a ton of coverage of how television gets made and what decision processes were happening.”
Owen graduated in 1993 from Syracuse University with a degree in magazine journalism. Owen published work as a TV journalist in the campus magazine during this time.
“I read a lot of TV columnists, particularly Matt Roush from USA Today,” said Owen. “I later became I critique and college of his and friend so that was a cool thing that happened later.”
According to TV Insider, Matt Roush has served on the jury for the American Film Institute’s annual AFI Awards, selecting the best TV shows of the year, for over 10 years.
Other journalists may not start off knowing what they want to do right away. “I thought about [a journalism major] but I can’t say I was sure,” said Napsha who attended Penn State University and declared journalism as his major only after his first year.
Napsha’s first paid journalist job was at The Democrat-Messenger located in Waynesburg which operated from 1914 until 1986.“I was a daily reported there for a short time,” said Napsha.
Owen did an internship with Richmond Times Dispatch early in his career.
“That was really foundational,” said Owen. “I ended up staying in their features department for three years.”
Journalism has changed over the years as social media and digital news has taken over and surpassed the use of physical newspapers.
“We didn’t have access to that much information when I started in the late 70s,” said Napsha. “Newspaper has evolved from print to rely more on social media.”
According to an article from the Pew Research Center “newsroom employment in the United States has dropped by 26% since 2008.”
“Newspapers, by and large, don’t have their own TV critiques anymore,” said Owen. “Some larger newspapers do but a lot of the work is being done by websites and trade publications. There is more coverage of television now than there was when I started, so there is both more opportunity and less opportunity if you’re looking to do it for a regional newspaper.”
Many students beginning in journalism learn by using the AP Style Guidebook and practicing different methods when writing their first articles. It can be a difficult process to get the hang of.
“I always look for what is the most newsworthy and it is definitely a judgment call,” said Napsha. “I find the more time you have to write a story the more time you have to revise. I end up changing the lead 10 times and the editor ends up rewriting the damn thing but I have to do it for my own satisfaction realizing someone else may not like what I wrote.”
“It’s a little like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Owen. “You just gotta figure out how to fit it the right way.”
“Sometimes the hardest part is knowing what to cut when a story is too long,” said Napsha.
Many students at Seton Hill are required to take an internship of some sort that relates to their major or future career path but Napsh and Owen had other advice that they believe will help students interested in becoming journalists.
“Take a broad spectrum of courses,” said Napsha. “Not only journalism but in politics, history, economics, social studies, because you run across all of those issues when you are a reporter.”
“Read, Read, Read,” said Owen. “And Write, Write, Write and get your writing published somewhere, even if you’re doing it for the campus paper at least you’ll have it to send.”
Talking with these journalists was really beneficial and I would suggest that anyone thinking of going into a career in journalism meets with people in the field and tries to learn from their experiences. Listening to Napsha’s experiences as a journalist after doing it for so many years was amazing to hear firsthand rather than just from what I have learned in class through books. Seeing how different Owen and Napsha’s stories were was also very inspiring. There are so many paths you can take in this career field. Despite personally not pursuing a career in journalism I feel that my experience as a journalist major has opened my eyes to so much knowledge and skills that I will use for the rest of my life.