Will Sullivan's guide to global mobile, tablet & emerging tech ideas

6 reasons you should volunteer for a journalism organization or college newspaper right now

Ronald McDonald prepares to eat some hapless volunteers courtesy Vidiot on Flickr

  1. You can learn how other organizations work, find solutions and tools you can use
    Working with students and schools offers the opportunity to be exposed to some great work being done by schools on the web, this stuff blows away some ‘professional’ papers in the country. Working with journalism organizations also gives you a chance to exchange info with other professionals, share ideas on tools and workflow and have someone to call for future ideas.
  2. You can find jobs
    Obviously, these are great networking opportunities. Advising a student paper is probably more advantages for the students to network with you, but their professors, full-time staff and alumni are all potential sources for job leads. Who knows, one of those students could end up hiring you in a couple years. The journalism work is incredibly small; I’m constantly amazed by how so.
  3. You can find rockstars before they sign to major labels
    If you’re in the position to hire or in the position to advise someone hiring, these teaching and volunteer opportunities are excellent for finding diamonds in the rough before they get snatched up by the NY Times. In a hiring freeze, you say? I was once told by a wise boss that it’s important to always have two or three names of people in mind to replace anyone on your staff. When I first heard this, I thought it sounds kinda like a jerk-ish thing to do. But you don’t think those people on your staff have two or three places they’d rather be working on their list? It’s nothing personal. Just business.
  4. You can get a new perspective
    Our culture is changing. Paying attention to how other people (specifically) the youth consume their media, what their interests are and how they find new interests is critical to our survival as an industry.
  5. Someone probably did it for you.
    Most likely in your career, you’ve been influenced by someone giving back to their journalism community – maybe it was a part time adviser/professional journalist at your college paper or someone speaking at a journalism organization event. Isn’t it time you were that influential person in someone else’s life?
  6. They need you. The industry needs you.
    More than ever, now is the time we need to learn from each other and create a new form of journalism. Students need your expertise and time, now more than ever. Other professionals need strong journalism organizations to educate, raise standards and keep our boat afloat.

For those of your thinking, “Oh yea, Mr. Fancypants, you tell us to do all this extra work for free, what are YOU doing to help out?” Well, here’s my spring schedule so far:

  • February — Video conference discussion with Bruce Strong’s Syracuse University students about multimedia
  • February — Judging blog categories in Texas Texas Associated Press Managing Editors annual competition
  • March 1st — Organizing and hosting a photo night for the Illinois Press Photographer Association (at my place, email me if your in the area and want to come check it out)
  • March — Judging in the Center for Innovation in College Media online college student media contest
  • March — Judging the Associated Collegiate Press Online Pacemakers competition
  • March — Organizing Illinois Press Photographer Association’s annual Multimedia Competition, and also assisting with the IPPA conference March 28-29 in Champaign, IL.
  • Peppered throughout the Spring — advising and critiquing St. Louis University’s student newspaper
  • May — Co-chairman organizing the National Press Photographer Association’s Multimedia Immersion Seminar in May
  • June (and peppered throughout the spring) — Working with Poynter Summer Fellowship students (details are still kinda vaugue at the moment but I’ve said, “Yes” to whatever it becomes.)
  • I’ll also try and keep Journerdism flowing with the latest journalism, tech and nerd news and commentary for all you delightful readers. Sometime I’m supposed to rap with some of the ONA leaders about how to make the org kick more ass (regarding my critique from before).

And for the record, I’m doing all of these without pay, except for the Online Pacemakers, for which there’s a very small honorarium.

So it’s your turn. Step up and help us all out.

This entry was part of the was part of the monthly “Carnival of Journalism.” Check out more entries from the festivities here.


  1. Hope it’s not out of line to mention here that we’re looking for interns at EveryBlock. Interested candidates should get in touch with me. And we pay! 🙂

  2. OMFG, that would be a bad ass internship.

  3. I’ve worked for free before and it was great because when your not focused on the money your focused on the learning process and thats when you really take things in.

  4. I suppose Ronald provides two pieces of context here:

    1. The title of the photo on Flickr references the ‘hapless volunteers’ attempting to bring Mr. McDonald under control.

    2. Said fast-food establishment is often referred to as a place that ‘I hear is hiring’ in regards to journalists unable or unwilling to move forward in their thinking when it comes to online publishing.

  5. Just a little bit of self promotion, but it seems like The Daily Pennsylvanian is always totally off the radar of people who mention college newspapers, and we’ve trying to do a lot of new media things, and personally I think we’re in the same league as the papers you linked to.

  6. Don’t forget community colleges and high schools if you’re looking to be a professional adviser.

  7. @ Ryan and John: You are correct, sirs.

    @ Albert: Sorry, I didn’t mean to slight anyone, I was just throwing out a few papers I’d been impressed by recently. 🙂 Keep rockin’.

    @ Erica: Oh yea! Thanks for pointing that out.

  8. bruce is great a professor…i was fortunate to have him for a year here at ohio

  9. Thanks Will! That’s a great attitude to have and I only hope more people like you adopt such attitudes. Anybody feeling like volunteering? Send me an email (check ACP for contact info).

  10. 🙂 no apologies necessary, i certainly wasn’t expecting the list to be comprehensive, just adding in another paper that could use a volunteer to give us some multimedia guidance

  11. Hi everyone,
    I came across this site looking for ways to expose my site to people who might be interested in volunteering as a journalist. I actually lose a lot of money running my site so I can’t really offer to pay, but my site gets a lot of exposure so this might be a great gig for someone interested in writing and promoting themselves as a journalist. I’m looking for people to write about environmental issues and the political/economic situation in regards to environmentalism, global warming, etc.

    If you’re interested please do get in touch: the site is