I sat next to a design engineer Monday at North Star Charter School’s career fair for fifth-graders.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Koch

When I was in fifth grade, I had a few ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Writer was on the list, as was veterinarian and marine biologist and — perhaps more whimsically — professional singer.

This week, I met dozens of fifth-graders who are pondering that same question. North Star Charter School invited me and a few other adults to come to the school's career fair to talk about our jobs and what led us to our professions. Most of the participants were parents, but my connection was my college roommate and close friend, who teaches at the school.

One lesson I learned today: If you want to be the popular booth at a career fair, bring food. Silly me, I thought my cool iPad mini would be enough to impress the kids. For the record, iPad minis are a sorry competition for cupcake minis. I'll admit, I was outplayed this time.

I had fun, however, meeting the students who did make their way over to my booth, which was covered in copies of the Meridian Press.

The students asked if I had to go to college for my job (yes), why I chose my career (I was inspired by a reporter who visited my class in high school), and what I liked about my job (the variety of experiences and people I get to meet).

I told the students what journalism has been like for me. But with technology and news-consumption habits changing so quickly, I wonder how different the industry will look by the time they enter their careers. Will these students grow up just getting their news through their phones or (heaven forbid) just through Facebook? Will Facebook even be relevant in five years?

Things have changed so much even in the last five years. When I was hired at the Idaho Press-Tribune in 2011, I had no idea that video and social media would play such big roles in my day-to-day job. Being a newspaper reporter looks a lot different now from what it did when I graduated, and it requires multimedia skills that used to be dispersed among multiple staff members.

That said, it's hard to predict what being a newspaper journalist will look like for the next generation. Key principles should stay the same, such as building trust, researching thoroughly and striving to be fair. But the way we get the news to people continues to change.

For example, the Idaho Press-Tribune, our parent company, is rolling out a program in which subscribers can get a tablet for a monthly fee, and on the tablet they'll have full digital access to the newspaper's products. The deal also includes print delivery of the Sunday paper. (If that interests you, learn more at idahopress.com/tablet/.)

I wonder how these fifth-grade students will consume the news as they get older. What stories will matter to them? How will news outlets best reach them?

Regardless of how we get stories out, the highlight of my job is still to connect people in ways that make a tangible difference. For example, this week I got an email from Kelly McMurry, the founder of The Closet, Inc., a nonprofit that we featured on our cover a couple of weeks ago. The Closet had to leave its rent-free location and is looking for a new space and a way to pay for it.

McMurry's email Monday made my day. It said, “As it turns out, a local property manager saw the article while at a car wash last weekend. She felt compelled to help. We are now in lease negotiations on a space.”

It made me happy to learn that story connected two people who might form a beneficial partnership. As I told the students, making connections like that is what makes this work fun. At least until I start my next career in marine biology or professional singing.


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