When the loss is ours

That some members of a graduating batch would go for a non-media career is expected. But one year into being a reporter, it’s more apparent to me that there is real loss when some of the best journalists I knew in college — even campus paper editors who mentored me on basic news reporting — did not dedicate their talent to moving the industry forward.

WHAT MADE me realize how much has changed in the media industry was gloomy advice for graduation students in the early 80s which I picked up in a news article. 

In the story, a well-respected columnist warned the would-be graduates of the limited number of available jobs in the bleeding newspaper industry. Schools are pumping out so many journalism graduates every year, she said, but major dailies just can’t open up more positions.

I struggle to reconcile this with the present, when it seems fewer and fewer fresh journalism or mass communication graduates want to go the news media route from the get-go.

Throughout my stay at university, where I officially graduated in January 2023, I have never met a single journalism student who was dead set on being a reporter since day one. Not even myself. 

Comparing notes with a colleague who taught at another journalism school, he was surprised to learn that I estimate only four out of ten of our graduates applied for media jobs. He said that for them, it was more like a one out of ten. 

That some members of a graduating batch would go for a non-media career is expected. But one year into being a reporter, it’s more apparent to me that there is real loss when some of the best journalists I knew in college — even campus paper editors who mentored me on basic news reporting — did not dedicate their talent to moving the industry forward.  

That loss is ours.

Industry burden

The press is losing its best talent before they even enter. 

While low pay and long hours are perennial challenges of the job — little has changed on that front, no matter what medium — what does it say about our profession that it no longer appeals as a career option, at a time when journalism is most needed?

I partly attribute this to the wisdom of older reporters and faculty members who had the foresight to warn students of the real problems that plagued the industry. And rightly so: Discussions on media ethics often discussed financial instability and dire working conditions that could lead one to unethical practice. 

I know for sure that my most immediate college seniors were walking toward something else — like financial stability and the relief of working a job that does not require one to run up a debt and develop health issues.

But industry — specifically, newsroom leaders — can no longer rely on platitudes to make highly aware top graduates choose a life in the media. And no amount of adjustments and curriculum updates in journalism schools can fix the industry’s simple failure to attract and keep talent. 

There is no way to accurately estimate the loss of potentially some of our industry’s best. Especially with an audience largely skeptical of the media, a still grim human rights situation, and a full-blown education crisis producing future adults who can’t read — I believe every available media position to inform and educate should retain the best practitioners as well as attract the best graduates.  

I say that this industry is losing some of its potential best with confidence because many of the people I know who decided not to join the press or who only stayed for months were a cut above the rest. They had a deep appreciation for facts but also a well-trained eye for critical angles. They took the role of the campus press under the previous Duterte administration so seriously that they could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with members of commercial media.

One year into the job, I understand that most of what I know how to do I only learned on the job and not in school. But I also believe that media should not just be inspiring audience trust, but also personnel and staff trust. 

Some fresh graduates in other newsrooms I have spoken to shared their own growing disillusionment with the profession. Some are often awakened  past midnight by the persistent calls of a superior demanding rushed tasks, constantly being pressured to churn out viral stories at the cost of quality, and other demands while being paid a pittance. 

When some of the most clear-eyed journalism graduates are being driven away by the profession’s poor working conditions, it is clear that the trust is not there. 

‘Scare tactic’ not working 

My privilege is in being both well-informed and well-supported before and after I entered the media. It took a lengthy conversation with a current editor, and a personal reflection of my own priorities to embrace being a reporter as my first job. Not everyone has the privilege of being backed both professionally and personally by their newsroom.

For one campus press editor I know who pursued a different career, the idea of defending our democracy was difficult to swallow when the reality of household expenses started to creep in.

Blanket warnings about the grim aspects of the profession are not an effective way to inform others about the realities of being a media practitioner while still prodding them to see its essential role in a democracy. Maybe it is an effect of being a K to 12 graduate, but I believe recent graduates are not as uninformed or are in the dark about the profession as others may believe.

There are far more meaningful conversations to be had than making someone choose between their passion or financial stability. The most helpful advice dished out to me prior to my being reporter was a detailed, realistic assessment of what each newsroom has to offer, how others have found ways to augment their sources of income, what being a reporter has contributed to their long-term career trajectory, and other facets of the job that go beyond pay.

Conversations with current students also lead me to believe that it’s not productive to just simply tell them some rendition of: You will get burnt out every month and live in poverty but at least you get to witness historical events. I was a recipient of so many remarks like this but what’s a student supposed to do with that information?

One thing I did not realize as well is the sheer amount of supportive senior colleagues who were willing to help me find my footing even if the working conditions were every bit as difficult as I was warned about.


As an education reporter, I sense the qualm about current graduates not proving to be a good fit with what the industry needs.

In the media, I believe sometimes that it is the opposite — that many graduates are well equipped to take on the challenge of the profession, but it’s the industry that cannot suit up to incentivize them to join it.

Pay is just one aspect, but a fulfilling career with a promise of growth and stability is particularly important to people of my generation. 

Journalism schools should encourage healthy and consented discussions on things like how one can go about negotiating salary and benefits, researching market rates and identifying jobs within newsrooms that are not the traditional beat reporter post but are more fitting for those who prefer the research or multimedia track.

The industry should not be satisfied with paying fresh graduates or rookies a pittance but should be thinking long-term about career paths that can develop their people over time.  

Collaborative projects in partnership with campus publications like the Climate Disaster Project are great starting points in training student journalists to chase after impactful stories. They can carry these later on when they, in journalistic parlance, finally “practice” for commercial media.

Ultimately, it’s an uncomfortable conversation that needs to be had beyond scaring students about life in the media, which I can personally say we have had more than enough of through the years. We lack actual conversations on what ways rookie reporters like myself can survive and the many options we can weigh in choosing our careers. 

In one of the last webinars I attended as a student last year, one of our journalism professors was taken to task with that kind of question: How can reporters be expected to defend democracy under a then-freshly elected son of a dictator, if they have to work two jobs to make ends meet?

It’s a real issue that needs to be resolved with long discussions on the worth you bring to the table, the professor said, but it will probably require more than one conversation. MT



Cristina is a reporter for Her views do not reflect those of her employer.