Inside SAIT journalism
Employment in traditional news media continues to face great instability and claims of “fake news” are used to target journalists worldwide. Despite this, SAIT’s journalism program has been steadily enrolling more students than ever before.
Challenging job market conditions for journalism grads will likely persist into the future. However, recent SAIT Journalism grads highlight how they were able to make it in a business with so much uncertainty.
Krista Conrad, 2015 graduate: Reporter at the Okotoks Western Wheel and Communications Consultant
After leaving SAIT, Krista Conrad, landed a full-time job at the newspaper in her hometown of Okotoks. The family-first culture of the Okotoks Western Wheel proved to be exactly what she needed.
By the time she finished at SAIT, Conrad was a single mother of four about to face a difficult job market.
For Conrad, not working simply wasn’t an option.
So, as soon as her classes finished, she scoured job websites. She began applying for a minimum of 10 jobs per day.
“I thought if I could get them in a room, maybe I could convince them I’m the right candidate,” said Conrad. She applied for every job that seemed remotely within her skillset.
While Conrad was attending SAIT, she became heavily involved with The Weal and volunteer organizations as a way of differentiating herself from her classmates.
“I was a part of The Weal from the very beginning,” said Conrad.
“I started writing right away outside of class, and that helped a lot.”
Conrad believes students at SAIT have a wide variety of opportunities to get involved. She encourages them not to pass anything up.
“The more that you can show potential employers that you’ve done, the better off you are,” said Conrad.
While the future outlook of traditional print media looks challenging, Conrad is optimistic about the future opportunities that SAIT journalism graduates will encounter.
“Don’t be discouraged by what you’re hearing in the market or the economy,” said Conrad.
Conrad says the journalism program provides students with a variety of skills in communications, news, video, and photography, which will help graduates get jobs in many different industries.
Amanda Siebert, 2015 graduate: Freelance Journalist, Photographer, Cannabis Editor, Author
Journalism is a highly uncertain profession right now. Amanda Siebert remembers distinctly being told at SAIT “you’ll need more than one skillset if you want to make it.”
Heeding this advice, Siebert has since worked at The Georgia Straight in Vancouver as a writer, photographer, and cannabis editor. In 2018, she published her first book,The Little Book of Cannabis.
“That was some of the best advice I got, because that really enabled me to get a job right away,” said Siebert.
According to Siebert, it’s a lot harder for people who only want to specialize in one area like writing or photography.
While Siebert was attending SAIT, she made a conscious decision to focus heavily on her school work and extra-curricular activities.
“I knew how hard it was going to be a journalist for real,” said Siebert.
Siebert also took great care to participate in extra curriculars. She was able to gain an advantage over her classmates in the job market.
“Being involved in extra curriculars and particularly working with the Weal, those were things that really benefited my time at SAIT.”
Siebert’s practicum took her to The Georgia Straight, a Vancouver weekly newspaper.
During her practicum, she found herself doing stories that many of the journalists at the paper didn’t want to cover.
“I was able to go out and cover those “boring news items” in a way that journalists who had been at the paper for 10-15 years weren’t about to do.”
Siebert also thinks it’s important to chase topics you’re interested in. This a strategy lead her to becoming one of the North America’s first cannabis editors.
“If you have a niche, if there’s something you really like writing about, and you’re good at it, do that thing.”
Kyle Meller, 2016 graduate: Trafficking Coordinator at Critical Mass
Since graduating from SAIT, Meller has worked in communications and marketing for Mercedes Benz and Storm Inc. He is now at Critical Mass.
When Meller was going through the journalism program, he began to feel that specializing in marketing and communications would be the most viable career choice for him once he left SAIT.
He remembers his instructor Jim Cunningham saying “this diploma is what you make of it.” Meller took this to heart.
He began to search for learning opportunities outside of his course work, including working at the Weal.
“I definitely think that working at The Weal was probably the best thing I ever did at SAIT,” said Meller.
That year, Meller earned a crash course in newspaper publishing. The newspaper’s publications coordinator quit, and all of the remaining editors at The Weal ran the newspaper.
With a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish after SAIT, Meller did a “lot of self-education” before graduation, to do what he needed to get his first marketing and communications job.
He took a number of free online courses from Google and other companies to bolster his resume while in school.
“Being a licenced google ads professional was a basic stepping stone into marketing and communications,” said Meller
To Meller, it’s important for current journalism students to realize there are many career avenues for their education. Doing journalistic work is just one among many.
As a suggestion, he challenges students to think about all the different careers that require a talent for writing or taking photos.
“There’s many more career paths that would suit a bunch of varying skillsets with the journalism background,” said Meller.