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How Lawrence K. Jackson’s journey through journalism defies industry myths

Tell anyone you’re pursuing a career in journalism today and you may get a chuckle or reluctant smile to follow. At this point, no one has alluded cuts in newsroom staffing. With some scale-backs reaching as large as 400 jobs and 250 positions at a time, there’s no wonder skepticism has made bed with the fourth pillar of democracy.

If you remember, back in 2015, ESPN laid off aid off around 300 employees due to declining subscriber base and increasing sports-rights costs then in 2017 laid off another 100, in efforts to remake itself in the new streaming age.

Characterized by the shrinking ad revenues, the disintegration of journalism’s business model would leave most ducking to another profession. Not only is it one of the hardest professions to break in to, it’s also not the most lucrative.

A 2017 study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce looked at the unemployment rate for recent college graduates and recent graduate degree holders across all areas of study and found that unemployment rates were dropping for nearly all college majors, with the notable exception being journalism students.

Even if journalism majors do find a job in the field, the revenue still isn’t promising. The American Journalism Review did a study in May 2013 on U.S. salaries and found that journalists actually make less than the average wage in the United States — about $2,080 less. But that’s what makes Lawrence K. Jackson’s journey inspiring.

Although attaining a reputable formal education from Syracuse with a degree in Broadcast Journalism back in 2013, there still wasn’t much to be promised at the time. Despite that fact, Lawrence has been able to make a name for himself.

Since graduating, Lawrence has found success as a journalist, host, producer and public speaker, all in an era where journalism was facing some of it’s largest cuts in history.

Originally from Spring Valley New York, Jackson has managed to show and prove on every level. You can look at his time at Syracuse, where he held multiple leadership roles, he interning experience after, or even managing to stand-out as an on-air host for Sean “Diddy” Combs’ music cable network, Revolt TV.

In an industry that was doomed to fall, Lawrence has always climbed.

Now, as the newest anchor for NBC’s digital news show  “Stay Tuned” — a New York City-based program with more than 30 million monthly viewers, three-quarters of which are under the age of twenty-five — it’s safe to say he’s broken all rules and dispelled all myths that have been associated with journalism.

Having interviewed cultural icons including Usher, Adam Silver, Oprah Winfrey and even now President, Donald Trump, Jackson indeed has shown that persistence and focus works.

We spoke to Jackson to gain perspective of his mindset entering the uncertain waters of Journalism back 2013 and what advice he can offer to all creatives and entrepreneurs. For him, it was never about jumping ship as much as it was making the most out what he brought to the table. Lawrence told us,

“For me, it was never necessarily about leaving. It was just about what was my impact was going to be — who was I going to become… It was just about, ‘what makes you happy, Lawrence? What do you think you’re best at, and what do people come to you for?’ And, I just had to sit down with myself honestly and have that conversation.”

Tunnel vision

A post shared by Lawrence K. Jackson (@lawkjackson) on

He later continued,

“I was more worried and concerned with, ‘let’s make sure they don’t turn you into what they want, make sure you turn yourself into what you want.'”

Getting a foot in is one thing, making a name for yourself is another. So we asked Lawrence about his interning at WCBS-TV and the significance of small beginnings. 

“I just wanted to stay in the building. I didn’t care what they were paying, I didn’t care what the hours were…I needed a job, and another great piece of advice someone gave me was: It’s always easier to get a job when you have a job. It’s really hard to get a job when you don’t have a job.”

But then, of course, there’s making the right relationships once getting in those doors. Paraphrasing an Issa Rae’s News One interview on networking across and not up, Lawrence also discusses how best to nurture those desired connections. He said,

“I think Issa Rae said it and I was so glad that she did. You have to network with the people who are next to you, across from you, and on your level. It completely changed the way my mind thought.”

He continued on giving some gems saying,

“Make your relationships, let them grow, help people that help you, work with honest hard-working people on your level, and in ten years from now that person is going to be an exec somewhere, you’re going to be an exec somewhere, and you’re going to get to talk, literally, money over coffee like the one-percenters do.”

Before we got off the phone with Lawrence, we were able to get some industry must-haves for any aspiring journalist.

“Writing. You have to write in some form. Number two is knowing the basic rules of journalism and following them and not falling into this 2018 fake news. And three is being yourself,” he said.

He also gave us a run-down of his new role working for Snapchat.

“Right now I’m signed to NBC News and we have a show on Snapchat called  ‘Stay Tuned.’ It’s a partnership between NBC and Snapchat to build content. We have a generation of kids who don’t have a reputable news intake. They basically created a show that lives on Snapchat via NBC and NBC news.”

Lawrence explained the concept,

“We shoot seven days a week. It’s two shows Mon-Fri and one show Saturday and Sunday. We’re approaching six million subscribers, we’re approaching a billion views, and we’re one of the fastest growing programs at NBC, period.”

You can find Lawrence on his website: Lawrencejackson.com and follow him on Twitter @lawkjackson

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