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: Zack Demars
School: University of Oregon
Where are you working right now?
Demars: After spending a summer as a Snowden intern with The Bulletin in Bend, Ore., I’ve taken a full-time gig as a news reporter at The World newspaper in Coos Bay, Ore. It’s a small newsroom, but it’s a true community newspaper!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job search?
Demars: Connections are key — a good recommendation from a former editor is how I got this job. I really discovered over the summer that building a good relationship with the people you work with can work wonders in the job search. In a relatively tight-knit journalism community like Oregon’s, it seems like everyone knows someone who knows someone that might become a future colleague.
What’s been your best moment in journalism since graduation?
Demars: I think I’d have to point to when my paper was the first on-scene at an ICE protest this summer. We were there when it started, and we were there when federal agents came to end it. The newsroom worked like clockwork to get the full story and I, the lowly intern, had a front seat to it all and a hand in the reporting.
What do you wish you had learned as a student that you’re learning on the job?
Demars: How to be a member of a community while also being a reporter. Learning about the basics of reporting and the High Ideals of Good and Ethical Journalism are certainly important — but journalism is so much different when you’re reporting on your neighbor’s small business or a road project planned for your street. Journalism school often taught me to think about journalism as a tool, like using journalism to hold power to account or expose scandal. But much more often, community journalism is an institution — it’s part of the machine that makes cities run, and makes sure citizens get to the right public meetings to contribute their voice, and shares stories that remind residents why they care about their communities.
Have your journalism goals changed since graduation, and if so how?
Demars: Honestly, I’m not sure if I know quite yet. I’m practically still learning the ropes of community journalism, so I can’t say whether or not it’s a long-term goal for me. I might hope to jump one day into deeper, longer-term projects, but for now I’m working to get a handle on serving my community with the local, nitty gritty, daily news.
What’s the NEW wackiest story you’ve ever worked on?
Demars: “Wacky” may be too jovial a word for this one, but it’s certainly a unique story. Over the summer, I covered a city council meeting in a small town in Central Oregon. The drive out there was an hour, but the meeting lasted just three and a half minutes. The only agenda item: The retroactive approval of the mayor’s decision to destroy a controversial wooden model train that had been built by a convicted sex offender and was purchased by the city for public display.
How are you taking care of yourself and staying motivated right now?
Demars: I’ve finally gotten into reading for fun, not just for class. I’ve really enjoyed the chance to read some of the authors I heard so much about in college (looking at you, University of Oregon grad Ken Kesey), and it gives me a chance to escape, even if I’m stuck inside my apartment.
Tags: Class of 2020