The next generation of journalists graduated in 2020 into a challenging job market unlike any other. We spotlighted them last summer, shared advice from their role models, and are checking in with them to see where they are now and what they’re learning about journalism.
Name: Will Bjarnar
School: Marist College (New York)
Where are you working right now?
Bjarnar: Currently, I’m working remotely and full time for a start-up production company called Inflection Point Entertainment, where I serve as a production assistant and the assistant to Michael Smith, the company’s founder. Formerly a commentator at ESPN, he’s broken into the production business, building projects from the ground up; I assist him in researching, scheduling, and other facilitation needs.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job search?
Bjarnar: I guess with this answer, I’m moving a bit ahead on the questionnaire (and unintentionally touching on how I’ve remained motivated). And that’s because on the job search, the key, really, is to stay motivated and to persevere, as general as that description may be. Generalities can be true, too! Because it is incredibly difficult, maintaining a positive mindset amidst such a difficult job climate, but the key to that is to recognize that I’m still learning. I’ve changed my cover letter more times than John Feinstein has written a book (that’s a lot). But that’s part of it. You have to adapt to the application, promote yourself in the proper manner, and, as the saying goes, try, try again.
What’s been your best moment in journalism since graduation?
Bjarnar: I’ve been lucky enough to contribute to a number of websites — Buffalo Rumblings, Cineccentric and Screen Rant — so I’d say that, collectively, my first time being published on said sites has been the best moment. I realize that this is cheating, but respectfully, I’ll refrain from apologizing; that’s the most significant moment of a young writer’s life, isn’t it? At least at this point. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed contributing to these sites ever since my first piece, but I’d put a spotlight on those first stories — the first time I had a real, “professional” byline. I certainly haven’t made it, by any means, but those moments made me finally feel like I was on my way toward what I hope to accomplish.
What do you wish you had learned as a student that you’re learning on the job?
Bjarnar: How to file taxes as an independent contractor… is that an acceptable answer? In all seriousness, though, I’d say work-life balance. In college, everything is compartmentalized as jobs and extracurriculars. Now, it’s different because you actually have to counsel yourself to make time for yourself. It’s built into your schedule in college, more or less. Sure, I’d find myself editing in an academic building at 11 p.m. on a Wednesday, but life would be interspersed throughout the day. With a full-time, on-demand job, it’s a bit harder to find that time unless you’re really looking out for yourself. If there was an elective on that concept, I would’ve been the first to sign up.
Have your journalism goals changed since graduation, and if so how?
Bjarnar: It might be boring to admit, but they really haven’t. Then again, they haven’t wavered since I was… 6? I want to be a writer. Columns, profiles, features, books, reviews; you name it, I want to tackle it, and I always have. Sports, movies, politics, I don’t care. Just give me a pen and a pad — or a laptop and keyboard — and I’m set.
What’s the NEW wackiest story you’ve ever worked on?
Bjarnar: Wacky is the wrong word to describe it, but there’s no one proper word to describe what the world has gone through in the last year. So I suppose I’d highlight the story that was the biggest departure from typical, perhaps directly related to the pandemic. I wrote about the nursing home I’ve worked at since I was 16, and how its employees have responded to the pandemic, but more so, how it’s gone over with the residents within. Some of them recognize what’s happening, whether it’s due to what Fox News has to say or due to the letters they’ve received from family members as opposed to in-person visits. But others are unaware. Either they have been told and forgotten, or they suffer from dementia, or they can no longer speak or move without assistance. It’s a world of its own inside those walls; to capture that in any small way was odd, but it was cathartic. It gave me perspective; I hope it did the same for others.
How are you taking care of yourself and staying motivated right now?
Bjarnar: I answered this in a way before, but to go into a bit more detail: it relates entirely to focusing on my work, focusing on my writing and other projects, and enjoying the unexpected time I’ve gotten with family. They’re my strongest support system; my mother has been my favorite editor since day one. And having them throughout the entirety of this post-graduation process has been monumental (not a dramatic word to use. It truly has). Beyond them, as I mentioned, it’s my projects, both work-related and ancillary to my work. I’ve jumped headfirst into editing a video I make at the end of each year, a supercut of my 25 favorite films of the year, and that’s what really helps me escape. So it’s a culmination of all of those things. Oh, and the Buffalo Bills being 13-3. That helps.
Tags: Class of 2020