Alumnus prepares journalism students for life after college

Jason Butkowski, a College journalism alum and communications director for the New Jersey State Democrats, gave journalism students a glimpse into their futures on Sept. 9.

During associate professor of journalism Kim Pearson’s political reporting class, he explained the realities of the work force, the realm of New Jersey politics and what to expect as an undergraduate seeking employment.

With examples drawn from actual experiences, he spoke to students about how a willingness to volunteer and work grueling hours is key to success in a constantly evolving media culture.

Butkowski entered the work force in 2001 as a senior with an internship in the state house bureau of The Press of Atlantic City.

“It was a difficult time to be (in the news field),” Butkowski said. “I was thrown into covering 9/11, one of the most intense gubernatorial races our state has seen and the anthrax scare.”

He then worked as a speechwriter, liaison and reporter for the state Senate Democratic Office.

According to Butkowski, his workload led to 20-hour days during election season, and he would often have deadlines “25 minutes after I got the assignment. It was good in the sense that there were many opportunities to do my job.”

Butkowski said his job involves ghostwriting opinion pieces and speeches, editing photos, which he said he was expected to take himself, editing and collecting audio and maintaining the state senate Democratic Web site.

“You have to write well and quickly and be an individual media production unit,” Butkowski said. He said with such advances in technology “the business is evolving at an extraordinary rate, even from what I got into six or seven years ago.”

Butkowski went on to spotlight the dangers of political corruption, citing Wayne Bryant, a former state senator from Camden, as an example. While budget committee chair, Bryant appropriated funds for his own salary.

“N.J. politics can get disheartening, but at the same time there are plenty of people accomplishing good things,” he said.

He told future political reporters to “have a healthy skepticism about politicians. They all have agendas, but don’t let it translate into distrust.”

When asked about the reliability of bloggers, Butkowski said, “They tend to be less objective than legitimate political reporters.”

“There were bloggers sent to both the Democratic and Republican national conventions this year, but a fundamental difference between it and field reporting is when you do a blog post you’re inviting a conversation,” Pearson added. “In the publishing world you’re putting information out there and it’s received more passively.”

As final advice to aspiring journalists, Butkowski said, “You’ll find the most success by building relationships with anyone of importance that you meet and by studying people and backgrounds. Also, you hold a position of incredible authority, so use the power of the pen fairly and justly.”

Arthur Iurilli, senior journalism major, said the lecture was enlightening.

“I enjoyed the lecture because it proves journalism can be a gateway to things beyond papers,” he said.