Media Moves

Tips from seven women who got some of the most in-demand roles in media

October 2, 2019

Posted by Mariam Ahmed

Hunting for journalism jobs can be a tedious task especially when you are entering a new space. Mandy Hofmockel, deputy editor of news for and a graduate of Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media and Local News Innovation, talks about her journey on which she embarked eight years ago.

She discusses the challenges she faced including battling with low self-esteem as a result of not landing a job immediately. “Rebuilding my confidence after that took a long time, but I was incredibly fortunate to have a network of supportive family and friends to help me get there,” she said,  “I wanted to give back to those working through some of the same issues so I started a free newsletter in early 2018, now called Journalism jobs and a photo of my dog. Each week I curate a list of recent openings organized by region, share industry readings and trainings, and include uplifting messages that have fueled me.”

In order to easily break into a new space, Hofmockel has shared tips from seven digital women leaders on how they landed their roles.

Leanne Gemma, now director of product at McClatchy talks about using an outside perspective to growing at work. She says she “kind of stumbled into her first job at McClatchy”, a company which is constantly evolving and changing with time.

“If you want to move into product and that’s not your job, start figuring out how to do product things in your job,” Gemma said. “Figure out how to infuse product thinking into what you’re doing. It’s a lot easier to get into a job if you show you have the mindset and skill set and passion for it than if you’re just sitting back and waiting for it to come your way.”

Sarah Schmalbach, entrepreneur in residence at Lenfest Institute for Journalism, a non-profit organization emphasizes the importance of envisioning and then building upon that. “I didn’t necessarily want to get back into a traditional product development role in a newsroom because I got really used to quick development cycles,” she said. “I like trying lots of new ideas and seeing what sticks.”

Laura Kim, senior digital strategy editor at The New York Times, joined The Weekly, the Times’ streaming documentary series after working on the Times’s digital transition team. Kim talks about pitching positions to your superiors. “I came into the Times first observing and (working to) really understand what the whole culture was all about,” she said. Once she “understood the system, I was able to work my way into this role.”

“With the show’s story team, we examined how to bring the Times, Left/Right (our production company), FX and Hulu under one umbrella,” Kim wrote in an email. “We were starting completely from scratch, so it felt very much like a startup at first. I’m proud to say that our systems have evolved immensely over the past year, and we’re still growing.”

Laurén Abdel-Razzaq, digital director of The Detroit News emphasizes acquiring education to broaden your skillset. She began her career at The News seven years ago, first working as  a reporter and then being promoted to the position of social media manager.

Abdel-Razzaq decided to get her MBA (while working full time) in the hopes that she’d be in a better position for a management role if opportunities presented themselves. “I was fortunate in that I had people in the newsroom — allies and mentors who were advocating for me and who believed in me and told me that even though I was relatively new at this (and) relatively young, that they would be there to support me and help me through difficult situations,” she said.

Ethar El-Katatney, The Wall Street Journal’s young audiences editor says, “I was good at giving advice and helping people really shape their pitches (and) shape their story ideas and not take over.”

El-Katatney stressed upon learning and how it is a continuous process that helps people stay connected. “I ask my team every year to review me,” El-Katatney said. “They told me I should not eat lunch at my desk every day because then they never go to lunch.”

When Everdeen Mason’s mentor went on maternity leave from The Washington Post, Mason had an opportunity to step in and launch a team in her absence. “That was sort of my test,” said Mason, who had pitched a number of different teams she could run. “Two months later they (said), ‘Give us a proposal for what you would do with this team that already exists.’’

Mason is now the senior audience editor at The Post, overseeing five embedded audience editors who also conduct editorial experiments.

JulieAnn McKellogg, director of audience growth at Project Text says, her interests slowly pivoted to working on tools that help local journalists build sustainable communities and business models. “The top thing for me and my path has been the mentors and the people that I’ve found in the newsrooms I’ve worked with and around the industry,” she said. “They’ve really given me so many opportunities to propel myself forward and to take on new challenges.”

In addition, apart from these tips, anyone looking to land a journalism job can look around on websites; Hofmockel also shares a spreadsheet link where one can track all their applications. Lastly, she has also provided a slide deck where she surveyed six young journalists on how they got their starts.



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