Approximately 1 percent of those who work in U.S. media are post-9/11 veterans, U.S. Census data shows.
But two military veterans who are now seasoned journalists want to change that.
That’s why Navy veteran Zack Baddorf and Marine Corps veteran Russell Midori launched Military Veterans in Journalism, a professional association designed to help veterans transition into media careers and will provide veterans with a journalism workshop next year.
“I think a lot of media outlets have been negligent in doing outreach to the military, veteran community and trying to hire them,” Baddorf, who served in the Navy from 2001-2006 and has more than 15 years of media experience, told Military Times. “That’s not to say that they don’t respect the values, or the skills that they would bring. They do.”
However, hiring veterans requires resources like time and money and as a result, Baddorf said media outlets haven’t been as proactive about recruiting veterans.
After informally mentoring people, Baddorf and Midori realized there was a need for a more formal institution and launched Military Veterans in Journalism in May to provide a mentorship program to veterans.
Furthermore, the association announced it is organizing a three-day Journalism Immersion Workshop in New York City in 2020 for nine veterans that will include panel discussions with senior journalists, a career fair with human resources representatives from media organizations and other networking events to meet other journalists.
Participants will also shadow a working journalist for a day.
Those selected for the program come from a variety of military backgrounds, including a retired Army pilot, a former Army combat medic and a former Navy electrician’s mate.
Although not all the veterans selected for the program have substantial journalism experience, Baddorf said he and Midori wanted a diverse group of applicants who had a desire to learn. For example, some veterans already have journalism degrees and jobs in the field, while others haven’t been published yet and are looking for ways to get their foot in the door.
The workshop will take place in the spring, although specific dates have not yet been selected.
Baddorf said as a journalist in the Navy, a rating that has since been merged with the mass communications specialist rating, he accumulated a strong portfolio reporting on the military.
Even though he applied for dozens of jobs following his service, he never heard anything back. Ultimately, he resorted to freelancing and was published in outlets including the New York Times and the Associated Press.
“I’m really proud of that experience, but it was tough,” Baddorf said. “I didn’t have any mentors, I didn’t really know the process for getting employed. And you know, it was a challenging experience making that transition.”
Midori, who now works for CBS News, faced similar challenges as he exited the military and Baddorf said it motivated them to create an outlet for veterans interested in journalism.
According to Baddorf, newsrooms and the public will benefit from more veterans in media jobs because they have a firm grasp on international affairs, military conflict and veterans affairs. Likewise, they also tend to have a more “non-partisan perspective,” Baddorf said.
“What the military is doing is a critical part of our public life and needs to be reported on with nuance and with understanding, and veterans are people who have experienced life within the military....They bring diverse experience and understanding of these issues,” Baddorf said.
The three-day workshop isn’t the only program that Military Veterans in Journalism wants to organize. Next on the horizon is working to secure fellowships and internships for veterans at various media outlets that could help them expand their portfolios and potentially lead to a full-time position.
“We believe that it’s that day-to-day experience that’s going to be good for their careers,” Baddorf said.