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Don’t give up hope for success, Chieftain reporter says

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Students seeking a career in journalism must learn current technology, develop critical reading habits and hone their writing skills if they want to be marketable in today’s highly competitive job market.

Jon Pompia, a reporter with The Pueblo Chieftain, shared these comments with mass communications students during their weekly media lab meeting on Thursday at CSU-Pueblo. Pompia, who is editor for the Active Years and Beyond the Fold tabloid inserts published by The Pueblo Chieftain, encouraged students to be versatile and work hard at honing their craft.

Bill Dagendesh, the editor in chief for CSU-Pueblo TODAY, invited Pompia to speak to students about the journalism profession. Dagendesh and Leticia Steffen, who is adviser for CSU-Pueblo TODAY, and an associate professor of journalism with the Mass Communications and Center for New Media department, introduced Pompia and encouraged class participation.

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office clip art

“Jon has done everything, and I have learned a lot from him,” said Dagendesh who, along with Pompia, once wrote for The Pueblo West View.

During his lecture, Pompia talked about the challenges and rewards of being a journalist. Prior to working for The Pueblo Chieftain, he wrote for newspapers in Trinidad, Colo., where he covered everything from the crime beat to sports and feature stories. He made mistakes, he said, but kept honing his craft and didn’t give up hope of success.

“I had to develop my skills like everyone else, and now is the time for you to start doing that,” Pompia said.

However, journalism has seen many changes in recent years, Pompia said. Today’s competitive job market demands prospective journalists to learn as much as they can in all facets of the profession. Also, students must save their work as employers will ask for samples of what they have done in college or in the field.

Prospective journalists, he said, must write, write and write some more.

“John Lennon and Paul McCartney are the two best songwriters of modern times,” said Pompia of the tunesmiths who fronted the 60s British rock group, The Beatles. “They wrote about 300 songs before their first song, ‘Love Me Do,’ got any real airplay. So, it’s going to take time, but you can do it, and you must not give up.”

Beyond the Fold can help student writers with building their samples book, Pompia said, as the publication will pay for stories submitted by mass communications students. The veteran journalist asked students what their interests and what they like to write.

Staff writers Jessica Miller and Nick Townsend said they like writing entertainment news and sports stories, whereas News Editor Nikki Martinez said she prefers news and opinion articles. Zak Bratton, who is entertainment editor and managing editor of CSU-Pueblo TODAY magazine, said he likes writing and designing pages.

Myth has it that journalist’s write only what they want to write, and that myth, Pompia said, is farthest from the truth. Journalists frequently cover stories outside their comfort zone, he said, and that students should not be afraid to explore other creative outlets.

“You want to be versatile in all areas because you never know when you might be assigned a story that isn’t interesting to you,” Pompia said. “A sports writer shouldn’t be afraid to cover hard news, and a crime beat reporter might get assigned a feature story.”

Pompia emphasized the importance of writing well and of students saving their work. However, the time to prepare for the future is now, he said, as journalism continues to be competitive, and that students might not get a second chance at pursuing the profession. Before he concluded his lecture, Pompia handed out reporters notebooks to the staff.

Journalists write, Pompia said, and the more they write, the more they need to write.

“You have to write every day if you want to write professionally,” Pompia said.