Sounding off on development careers for trained journalists

A young journalist during a media training in Farah, Afghanistan. There are plenty of opportunities for trained journalists to work in international development. Photo by: U.S. Department of Defense / CC BY-NC-ND

What international development jobs are there for trained journalists, besides reporting on the industry?

There are several, Kate Warren, director of global recruiting services at Devex, said in a Career Matters blog post last week. They include the role of editor, writer, grant or proposal writer, communications or public relations officer, information and knowledge management officer or media specialist.

“In the hyper-competitive world of news and reporting, those interested in marrying their passion for international affairs and journalism may find steady work harder to come by,” Warren noted. “However, there is a vibrant role for those with a journalism background to play in international development, and it doesn't always mean reporting on the ground for a major news outlet.”

Several Devex readers agreed, relaying stories of how they’ve found jobs outside the usual line of work for trained journalists or media professionals.

Lyndal Rowlands, for instance, said she studied development and media communication and now has a monitoring and evaluation job. In a comment on Warren’s blog post, she suggested that she knows other people with a journalism background who made a similar career switch.

A Devex reader named Fedrod gave another example. Fedrod recalled volunteering for a few months at a small nongovernmental organization, helping the group in its M&E work because it was understaffed.

“I found the M&E work more of a ‘natural’ fit for me than ‘communications,’ because the ‘communications’ work that I've had to do so far is more related to marketing and PR which are not my forte,” Fedrod said. “Maybe M&E is the way to go. I now have to convince someone that I can do it.”

J. Gayle, who studied journalism as an undergraduate and communications and development in graduate school, meanwhile, said he or she now works as a public health specialist. Training in journalism equips people with the skills to analyze and synthesize complicated information as well as communicate it in an accessible way, ask the right questions to be able to adequately understand the basics of health systems, epidemiology and demography, among other things, and monitor, evaluate and draft scopes of work for research, Gayle said.

“Most of my colleagues are PhDs, MPHs and medical doctors. However, my background in Journalism/Communications helped prepare me to work along side these technical specialists,” Gayle wrote.

Christine F, who said she took the same academic route as J. Gayle, lamented the difficulty of finding “true” communication and development jobs.

“[J. Gayle’s] comment about synthesizing info and making it accessible is spot on, but I feel like we communicators are still under-appreciated and considered expendable in the job market,” she said.

What do you think? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Ma. Eliza Villarino

    Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability, and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.

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