Media careers appear to be full of glamour and prestige from the outside looking in, and that's not far off the mark. This work definitely has its perks, but you'll have to make some difficult personal decisions along the way before you have a shot at making it to the top.
Weighing the pros and cons of careers in the media industry—from travel opportunities to disfavor among the public—can help you decide if the challenging field of TV, radio, print, or online journalism is right for you.
The Pros: You're a Witness to History
Consider the events that have changed how the media covers the news. Every American experienced important events like the Kennedy assassination and the Persian Gulf War, but people in media had the opportunity to investigate, ask questions, and share the information they uncovered.
Media professionals are more than just bystanders to history. They become part of the events.
You'll Meet Important People
Ask anyone who works in media about some of the people they've met and you might get an impressive list of top celebrities and newsmakers. This perk doesn't just involve reporters or radio announcers who conduct interviews and write profiles. Even support staff have the chance to rub elbows with famous people. They can brag to friends and family about who popped into the office.
It's a Career Full of Surprises
You'll never know what a day will bring. The early morning of September 11, 2001, started just like any other until the terrorist attacks began. No one in America would consider that a good day, but it's a prime example of how a career in the media can bring the unexpected.
The attacks changed news coverage in a way no one predicted. As with police officers and firefighters, people in media tend to thrive on not knowing what will happen when they arrive for work.
You'll See the World
At least, you'll see a little more of the world than you might have otherwise.
Travel is a big component of this job, but the extent can depend on whether you're working on a national, big city, or local stage. If nothing else, you'll spend a fair bit of time behind the wheel. Those who love to be on the go, always looking for the next adventure, will have found their ideal niche here.
The Cons: Public Perception
Many surveys and polls have indicated that the public doesn't trust people who work in media. Much of the public feel that objectivity in reporting is dead and the news is full of bias.
This mistrust extends beyond the news business. Accepting payola has long been a threat to the integrity of radio, and magazine editors are routinely accused of photo manipulation to boost sales.
You can expect low pay and long hours unless you're a top TV news anchor or have some other high-profile position, especially in the beginning. The job will go to someone else if you're not willing to accept these conditions, because the industry is extremely competitive.
The top on-air radio jobs usually air during morning drive-time hours, so you have to be willing to be at work in the middle of the night to get the good paycheck. This lifestyle can put a strain on personal relationships.
You might have difficulty quitting to take a better job somewhere else because many positions require a media contract. Yet you still aren't immune to media layoffs even if you're lucky enough to get a higher-paying job.
A Changing World
It used to be relatively easy to put media careers into neat categories like broadcast or print, but newspaper reporters are forced to shoot a video for websites in 2019, and TV reporters are required to use Facebook or Twitter to post breaking news.
Traditional media companies are having to learn to build their brands on the internet, and even writers have to learn to create web-friendly headlines and make sure their content is designed for SEO.
The Pressure to Produce
The public craves news even when there isn't any—or at least there's nothing too notable going on. It's your job to make something out of nothing occasionally—but you can't pull a fictitious rabbit out of your hat. You have to stick to the facts.
You can't change that lost dog into a coyote on the loose in a suburban neighborhood, but you can dig...and dig...and dig to determine why that dog might be important. And if there's no dog, move on, sooner rather than later. Your livelihood depends on it.
The Bottom Line
As with any profession, there are great rewards and significant sacrifices in working in media. Consider the pros and cons to make your own personal decision if you're considering a career in the broadcast, print, or online industries.