After graduating with his bachelor’s in journalism degree in 2015, James Howell Jr. landed a job as a sports editor at a newspaper. Navigating the pandemic in 2020, he transitioned from print journalism to marketing, and now works in the broadcasting world as a digital content producer at WRTV, Indianapolis’ ABC affiliate. We asked Howell about his career journey so far:
1. Why did you decide to apply for the digital content producer position with WRTV?
“After five years in print journalism, and the unfortunate loss of my job during the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to dip my feet into the world of marketing. For 17 months, I worked in marketing for an Indy-based firm that works with substance use and mental health disorder treatment facilities. There I honed in on my talents in SEO writing and long-form writing about a very important topic in the world today – substance use and mental health.
I decided to move back to reporting but wanted to step outside of the bounds of print and utilize the strengths I gained in marketing to land with a television station that reports strictly digitally. I found myself at WRTV as a Digital Content Producer. I am able to use the strengths of AP style writing from my print days and also use the talents gained in SEO writing and social media from marketing to build on an already strong team.”
2. What is your day-to-day like at WRTV?
“I work 40 hours per week, and I’m currently on the 3 p.m.-12 a.m. Monday-Friday shift. The world is on a 24-hour news cycle, which is preached in journalism programs like the one at IUPUI. While I work 3 p.m.-12 a.m. at the assignment desk, I am kind of always buried in news. In a market the size of Indianapolis, the city doesn’t sleep and things that need to be reported on are constantly happening.
I take calls from the community looking for help in reporting what is happening in their lives, communicate daily with local authorities and politicians about the work they do in the community, and facilitate the jobs of reporters and anchors who deliver the news on air. I write stories for our website, WRTV.com, and post those stories to social media – where most of us receive our news these days.”
3. How is this job different than your job as a newspaper sports editor? Have you had to learn new technology and skills?
“The transition is not the easiest, but with a strong base of knowledge in AP style writing, anything is possible. Build a strong base with your writing and it can carry you a long way.”
4. Has your IUPUI journalism education helped you with this job?
“IUPUI helped me immensely. The quality professors within the program that I was lucky enough to learn from helped me in building a strong base of AP style writing and news judgement. IUPUI’s location also created many opportunities for me to build on those skills. There are hundreds of publications within driving distance that are happy to let college students learn their way with their writing. I worked for no less than six publications while attending IUPUI. There I truly was able to work the cliché that ‘Practice makes perfect’ with my writing. Take advantage of the location if you are a student of the IUPUI journalism program.”
5. What advice do you have for student journalists looking to land a similar job in the future?
“Write. Write constantly. I have written millions upon millions of words in many different roles in just seven short years since graduating. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words before graduating. Find a local paper or blog that will work with you and allow you to publish with them.
Also, utilize the staff within the journalism department at IUPUI. There are great minds and great connections to make from them. I was able to land my first internship because of a connection I made from a professor. I landed my first two freelancing gigs from that internship. Creating that strong base of writing skill will create opportunity. Also, use your free time to learn SEO, social media tactics, and what publications are doing that stands out.”
Would you like to be featured on our blog? Contact Emily Turnier, director of outreach and career services for the Department of Journalism and Public Relations.