By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Staff Writer
Her life as a former student just a few minutes old, Traci Lee Hanamura was already spinning nostalgic tales and weighing the prospects that lie ahead.
“My classmates and I all say that we’ve become boring, because this has been constant work, work, work,” she said.
Seated quietly in the front row during the graduation ceremonies last Friday at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Hanamura’s was one of the first names announced, having completed her Master’s Degree in print journalism. For good measure, she was further recognized with the Director’s Award for Excellence.
The 23-year-old from Huntington Beach later fielded hugs and congratulations from a stream of family and friends who had gathered for the occasion. It’s a scene that is being played out nationwide as the various graduating classes of 2010 emerge from their hallowed halls of learning and are flinging themselves headlong into an employment market that continues to be fraught with uncertainty.
Hanamura’s challenge is a particularly daunting task; she is now in the hunt for a job in a field that is not only shrinking as never before, but whose very nature and basic tenets are being shifted and reformed by an ever-changing landscape of how information is being delivered. The last few years have seen iron-clad legacy newspapers such as Denver’s Rocky Mountain News disappear and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer become an online-only publication, while networks that transmit succinct snippets of news are finding their nesting in your cell phone.
Simply put, the game is changing faster than anyone seems able to chase it.
Case in point: Facebook and Twitter were hardly considered viable information carriers in business and journalism when Hanamura started at USC just two years ago, now both are key conduits of news and updates, with practically every major news outlet–the Rafu as well–having “personal” pages.
Hanamura, embodying a generation of exuberant, optimistic young grads ready to take on the world, understands that she has her work cut out for her.
“I’m excited about it, really,” she said confidently. “The path to being a journalist is changing, for sure, to be a reporter or producer. What I think it really takes is a concrete belief that news is always going to be important, that people are always going to need to know what’s going on in the world and in their communities, that’s why community journalism is becoming more viable.”
Recent studies would suggest that Hanamura will need to keep her enthusiasm fresh and at the ready. A Michigan State University survey on recruiting trends conducted last fall showed overall hiring of grads with any degree will decline by 2 percent in 2010, as compared to a year earlier.
On May 7, the U.S. Labor Department reported that despite a slight burst in hiring in April, the national unemployment rate actually rose, from 9.7 percent to 9.9 percent. It’s worse still in California, where the jobless rate has been hovering around 12.5 percent for months.
Harris Diamond, CEO of the public relations firm Weber Shandwick, delivered the keynote address at the Annenberg graduation, which followed USC’s full commencement. He cited Fox News as an example of how the very definitions of “news” and “truth” are being twisted and manipulated to suit varied audiences. Hanamura said she is confident that she and her peers have been well prepared to sift the facts from the spin.
“As we graduate, I like to think that they have instilled in us a sense of morality and truthfulness in journalism and I’m hoping that we’ll all go into the field with our ethics intact,” she said.
Hanamura, who graduated from Fairmont Prep in Anaheim then took just three years to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in English at UC Riverside, said journalism is the calling she’s always had, even if she wasn’t fully aware of that fact.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she explained. “After I finished my bachelor’s, I stopped and had to decide what to do do with my life, and what I want to do is write.”
With a desire to remain in Southern California, Hanamura was impressed with the multifaceted curriculum at the Annenberg School.
“The key to not only being a good journalist, but simply to survive in this changing culture, is to be a multimedia journalist, and that’s something I really learned here.”
Having honed her education and skills in print, online and broadcast news, Hanamura hopes to find her path to a producing position, with a desire to master the multimedia delivery of news. As she sets sail into the unpredictable seas of job hunting, confidence and optimism may initially prove to be her most potent weapons. With a broad smile and an unwavering tone, she said she is ready.
“It’s exciting and hopefully, we can change the world.”