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Invest in yourself: Skills offer competitive edge

Editor's note: Keegan Kyle attended an IRE Regional Boot Camp at the University of Minnesota Oct. 6-10, 2008. Here's his story of how the training bolstered his job prospects. (IRE and CUNY will be hosting a Regional Boot Camp in New York June 22-26. For more information and to register go here.)

The first time I ever stayed in an international hostel, I was visiting Minneapolis to attend a week-long IRE Boot Camp. I was a recent college graduate without a job, so my personal finances were tight. I booked a bed in the hostel’s community room for $28 per night, and I bought groceries at a corner market. The hostel had free Internet access.

I spent the days learning how to use computer databases in my reporting, and I spent the nights chatting with traveling foreigners. The worst part? The community dormitory sounded like a cave full of hibernating grizzly bears with severe respiratory problems. I grabbed my iPod, listened to Enya for awhile and managed to sleep well each night. I didn’t mind dealing with the hostel or the snoring guests because I knew that strange week in October would pay off in the end. For young journalists who are trying to find a path to the professional world, computer-assisted reporting can be an eye-catching bullet point for the resume and a great skill to talk about in job interviews.

The skills I learned at the Boot Camp helped me land a computer-assisted reporting internship at the Orange County Register and put me ahead of the competition for a reporting job at the Green Bay Press-Gazette. I am now a full-time public safety reporter, and I’m working on data-driven stories every week. The IRE training directors helped me learn some new tricks for data analysis, but more than anything, I think the Boot Camp renewed my enthusiasm for reporting. I started working on more advanced projects and learning new skills like mapping.

I still have a lot to learn about computer-assisted reporting, but the Boot Camp definitely steered me in the right direction. I never regret paying my own way to attend the training sessions. I hopefully will never have to stay in a hostel again, but I guess it wasn’t that terrible of an experience. I’ve already started looking into paying my own way for the IRE conference in Baltimore this June. As luck would have it, there happens to be a hostel less than two miles away.

Keegan Kyle, reporter, Green Bay Press-Gazette Check out IRE's training calendar often to see if we're coming to your area. If you'd like to bring a boot camp to your region, contact Jaimi Dowdell, jaimi@ire.org.

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