A Journalism Graduate Shares Her Story

Cara BuckinghamWith so many people interested in journalism, we thought it would be helpful to talk with someone who’s been there.  Who got the education and pursued the work she’d been trained to do.  Here’s her experience:

Cara Buckingham attended Syracuse University and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism  and Economics.  After graduation, she worked as a reporter/anchor in radio news and eventually landed a reporting job at KVOS TV in Bellingham, WA..    After several years of reporting, she expanded on her career as a journalist by making the transition to Public Relations and Marketing.  Cara worked for 9 years in marketing for the Shopping Center Industry and is now the Information Director for a construction equipment sales and rental company.

Journalismdegree.com (JD) interviewed Cara recently about her journalism career and the steps she took to get there.

JD:  Cara, tell us a bit about your educational background.

“As a journalist, you need to know a little bit about everything.  Syracuse had a great journalism program, but in retrospect, there are some things I wish I had done differently.  If I had to do it all again, I would’ve included some other journalism classes, not just Broadcast Journalism.  Broadcast Journalism is so focused on sound and pictures, that I wish I had broadened my focus.  Including other courses like print journalism would have given me a more in-depth education on researching and writing stories, and a really solid foundation.  The way you write for Broadcasting is different from how you write for print or for the web, and I think it’s important to learn all of that.  I would have also added history, public policy, or political science courses.  The economics major was helpful, but I wish I had branched out a little bit more.”

“Students need to remember that journalists uncover the truth, not give their opinion, and we have to maintain that. It’s so important.”

JD:  Did you do any internships while you were at school?

“I was really lucky, because at Syracuse, we had an NPR affiliated radio station (WAER). It’s run by both professionals and students. I had great opportunities covering real stories of things that were happening at Syracuse, and then I got a summer job there. That really helped with my resume.”

JD:  How did you prepare yourself for your career?

“I spent about 6 months working for my home town radio station in Connecticut. When I was ready to move on, I did a nation-wide job search, and chose Washington State at random. I received some really great advice from a professor. He said to start with a broad search, and then narrow it down to stations that had at least 3 or more people on staff, because you’ll know that they’re serious about their news programs. I put my resumes out to all those stations, and then got a call from a news station in Bellingham. Their sister station was hiring, and so I packed up my Blazer and moved out here.”

JD:  What led you into marketing and public relations?

“Many people will work in several markets. You kind of need to be willing to move around if you want to make it big. That was my intention, to work radio for a while, and then ultimately end up in one of the 14 largest markets. Oftentimes people pay their dues in the smaller markets, and then move their way up. I changed my path when I met my husband, and decided that I wanted some more stability in my life. That’s when I decided to transition out of broadcasting and into Marketing. I reevaluated what I could do with my skill set, and what my strengths were, (communications) and I ended up getting a job as the assistant marketing director for a local mall. The marketing director had a journalism degree as well, and recognized the strengths that my background could lend to the position.”

JD:  What advice would you give journalism students?

“Don’t get caught up in your ego, because you’re not the most important thing in the story.  Don’t ever put yourself first.  Always treat people with respect, whether you believe what they’re telling you or not.  You never know who’s going to turn out to be a really great source.

The other piece of advice I would give is to try to read as much as possible.  That helps people to be  well rounded.  And it doesn’t all have to be nonfiction—it can be fiction, magazines, whatever.  But the exposure will help you be a better journalist.”

JD:  What do you see as the future of journalism?

“With the accessibility of information on the Internet and the popularity of breaking news 24 hours a day, talk shows, radio programs, etc., and the opinions that are out there, it makes me nervous that people don’t understand real journalism.  Unless you’re doing editorial work, your opinion doesn’t matter.  It shouldn’t matter.  It goes back to the fact that you’re not the story.  It’s such an important field, no matter the vehicle.  Students need to remember that journalists uncover the truth, not give their opinion, and we have to maintain that.  It’s so important.”


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