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First Person

Grad Says Journalism Program Prepared Him for 'Wild' Web Job

By Michael Wargo

SOC Jeremiah Patterson is the program manager for web resources at the Wildlife Society

The Series: We reached out to SOC students and recent graduates who are spending this summer advancing their careers through a new job or internship, and asked how they got there, what they're learning, and what advice they have for others. We're sharing the responses in our summer series, "SOC Suits Up for Summer". 

Jeremiah Patterson, who graduated from SOC's Journalism MA program in May, found his job at the Wildlife Society as the program manager for web resources through his position as research assistant to professor W. Joseph Campbell. He credits the AU program with preparing him for a 21st century multimedia, multifaceted career.

Q: How did you find your job?

A: I found my job because I happened to be a research assistant to [Joe Campbell]. Ruxandra Giura came through the SOC journalism program about five years before me and at that time was assigned to professor Joe Campbell as an assistant. When she decided to leave the Society, she contacted the SOC journalism faculty and asked about a prospective candidate, who happened to be a graduate of the SOC journalism grad program. Professor Campbell passed along my name and she got in touch with me. There was still an application process, obviously, but it certainly helped to have that connection with the outgoing employee.

Q: What skills that you learned at SOC do you use in your job?

A: I cannot praise SOC enough for preparing me for my current job. Though my undergrad program was hands-on and I already had many multimedia production skills coming into SOC, the program at AU helped me refine those skills and taught me how to adapt them for the changing journalism landscape. Moreover, AU professors have rich experience and a love for sharing that experience with students. Now, I'm not only prepared for my current job but for my whole career. A specific example is in the Observer class I was more deeply exposed to content management systems and PHP/SQL programming--things I have to know as a webmaster at a major nonprofit.

Q: Describe your job duties/”day in the life” at your new place of employment.

A: As the program manager for web resources, I'm responsible for everything that appears on our website - along with the site itself. A lot of the time, I'm managing and editing content. I also do some multimedia production and, in time, will be reporting for our quarterly magazine. My long term project this year will be completely redesigning and rebuilding our website. As another example of SOC's wealth of professorial resources, I'm currently in contact with a former professor for deeper advice on content management and design.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

A: The most challenging aspect of my job is balancing my time between so many demands. Because everyone in our office has information for the website, my position essentially works with all other employees - all with their own demands and deadlines. Understanding how to juggle those needs is imperative for keeping everyone happy. And guess what? I translated those balancing skills in part from SOC - where students are managing text stories on top of video packages on top of computer-assisted reporting on top of internships on top of normal class work.

Q: What is the most valuable aspect of your job? 

A: Right now, the most valuable aspect of my job is that I'm forced to learn more about web development. I have a formal background in multimedia production and now have experience in reporting thanks to SOC. But the journalist of the future is one who does it all: text, video, audio, photography along with website construction and even some entrepreneurial and business management thrown in. My current position allows me to gain richer experience in the web aspects of the 21st century journalist.

Q: Any tips for others looking for an internship or job in your field?

A: I work for an environmental nonprofit, not a media powerhouse. But that's not to say journalism students wouldn't/shouldn't be interested in working for this field. The skills are translatable, and it's a wonderful opportunity to develop certain crafts outside the daily chaos of news production. For anyone looking to work outside the traditional field of journalism, find a way to package yourself that shows you can do it all. The online portfolio truly works. Give examples of your experience and emphasize your broad knowledge.

Q: Any stories you’d like to share?

A: Here's a great story that speaks to the way SOC's graduate program in journalism prepares students: on a recent Friday this summer, I met up with two friends for dinner. We reminisced how a year ago, the three of us were anxious, unemployed twenty-somethings, sitting in boot camp at the beginning of our program. Now, there we were, confident graduates, one at the Washington Post, one at USA Today and one at a nonprofit. Without doubt, we wouldn't be working at those organizations without SOC, its program and the phenomenal professors there.