Gannett Co. executive offers advice to students seeking jobs in media

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A. Sue Weisler

Virgil Smith, vice president of talent management at Gannett Co. Inc., was the featured speaker of the Paul and Louise Miller Lecture Series on Oct. 27.

Good journalism has not changed—it’s the platforms upon which journalism is delivered that’s changed. This was the resounding theme in an Oct. 27 presentation from Virgil Smith, vice president of talent management at Gannett Co. Inc.

As the keynote of the Paul and Louise Miller Lecture Series, “Finding News Media Jobs When the Future of Media is Unknown,” Smith’s audience was primarily students. He told them that change is constant and they must embrace it if they want to work in the industry.

Smith says it’s vital that today’s young people learn new skills and stay on top of the trends in multimedia and social media to make themselves stand apart from others competing for jobs. Strong writing and good storytelling remain key skills for graduates who want to work in the media industry. Familiarity with storywriting tools like Flash, video, audio and graphics are also important. Traditional newsrooms no longer exist at Gannett. Smith says they are now called information centers. Gannett has a footprint of 27 million unique visitors to its Web sites.

Within the past several years, Gannett launched its Talent Development Program to recruit the best and brightest college students. Those selected to participate in the program go to work at Gannett’s top newspapers and television stations and its corporate headquarters in McLean, Va. Some of the top universities from which Gannett has selected its candidates include University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Arizona State, Michigan State and Penn State.

Smith began his newspaper career in 1971 at The Sacramento Bee, where he held a number of jobs including circulation manager and personnel director. In 1991 he joined Gannett as associate publisher in Stockton, Calif. He’s served in his current role since 2006.

The School of Print Media and the Paul and Louise Miller Distinguished Professorship sponsored Smith’s lecture. The professorship was established by the Trustees of the Gannett Foundation in honor of Paul and Louise Miller. The endowed chair, held by Twyla Cummings, is intended to give recognition to the newspaper industry as a significant segment of the graphic arts industry.