The culture of student media at specialty schools
By Jessica Clary
Savannah College of Art and Design
College student media groups are an integral part of the university experience at every school, and students have many reasons for getting involved. Whether it’s for career experience, or just for fun, students from all different majors and programs come together through student newspapers, magazines, radio stations and more. But what about students at colleges where journalism isn’t a major? What about specialty colleges, like art schools?
While some students going to art colleges to escape certain parts of the university experience (sports, Greek life or something else), plenty don’t want to give up any of the activities and opportunities available at larger universities. Student media programs at art colleges are thriving across the country, and while some students involved may never use their student media experience in their pursuit of their dream career, plenty will, and have.
“I always wanted to be a writer, and came into graphic design starting in high school,” explained Mark Ziemer, a 2011 graduate of SCAD Atlanta. “I joined student media at SCAD as a chance to develop both of these skills.”
During Ziemer’s time in student media, he helped start the award-winning student magazine, and says that experience and portfolio helped him land his job at Atlanta Magazine, less than a month after earning his bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design.
“These specific responsibilities jumped out at my current employer more than the name of the school or the awards or the internships,” he said.
Peter Leix , a 2010 BFA photography graduate from SCAD in Savannah, agrees that everything you can do during college to stand out will help. “There is so much to learn on the technology side of things these days, and it’s impossible to learn it all in a classroom,” he said. “It’s a competitive industry, and anything you can do to differentiate yourself within school will pay in the long run.”
Leix was able to do internships with various magazines while he was a student. “These were invaluable experiences,” he said. “I think it’s important to get a taste of what the actual potential jobs you can get after college will actually be like, day-in and day-out.”
Currently, Leix is a graduate student, on full scholarship, at the University of Michigan.
Other photography students understand that working in the real world is important, and that journalism gives you a great opportunity to practice your craft.
“I think being a photojournalist for the Marietta Daily Journal newspaper really taught me the technical aspects of being a photographer,” said Samantha Wilson, a current MFA student at SCAD. “We had 8-10 shoots a day, so I learned a lot about lighting, aperture, shutter speed, etc.” She currently works part-time photographing events and working at Upscale Magazine.
Students agree that their fine-arts background is a positive on their resume, and sets them apart from other job applicants for jobs in the media. “The things I learned at SCAD are alway in use while I’m shooting,” Leix said. “My ability to ‘see’ how a scene should look come from the rigorous hours spent in critiques.”
“Sketching skills and craftsmanship are invaluable no matter what field of art and design you pursue,” Ziemer said.
Students from more traditional universities pursuing careers, or even internships, in journalism, need to know they’re competing against students with specialized experience in the arts. Experience in student media will help you stand out among your peers, and the more you can try and learn when you’re a student, the more competitive you can be in the job market.
“The management skills I learned as managing editor at SCAN Magazine are great to have in a job as demanding as mine where you’re trafficking hundreds of ads, books and clients,” Ziemer said. “The resume gets you in the door, and a quick scan of your portfolio site can seal the deal for a callback … my positions [in student media] stood out as something they needed.”
In a competitive and changing industry, every student needs to do as much as he or she can to land a dream job, and the job market for art-school graduates is strong in the media industry.
Jessica Clary is assistant director of student media at SCAD Atlanta and serves as the adviser to SCAD Atlanta Radio, SCAN Magazine and the online student news site The Connector. She also serves as the adviser to the Society for Collegiate Journalists chapter at SCAD Atlanta and on the College Broadcasters Inc. Board of Directors. If you’re interested in volunteering, she also helps coordinate onsite critiques at CMA conferences. Let her know at firstname.lastname@example.org.