I feel like I’ve run into iterations of this question a few times lately, so here go some words of whizzzdum.
If I were some 21-year-old dude again, but my 21-year-old self was transported to 2008 and I was looking for a job in media websites, I’d pick up some books on the following languages at SBX. I could stop in during my next trip to EV-1 for a Busch Light 30-cube. ($10.99, readers. But that was in 2001 prices. I imagine with the surge in grain prices, it’s gone all the way up to 46 cents per beer or so.)
The geek glasses know
Second, I’d get really good at CSS. It’s the best way to control page display, so clearly it’s mad useful. The HTML part is fairly simple; you’re just wrapping things in divs of different class and ID. Then the CSS comes into play and keeps your site looking tight.
Assuming you already have the media knowledge down — journalism and such — you’d be representin’ for an entry-level producer or front-end developer job. Other useful technologies include Photoshop, Illustrator, QuarkXPress (for the occasional print thing), IIS or Apache server admin, and database structure. That last one is obviously useful in general web development, but I’m assuming you’re looking for a job with a media company big enough to have its own DBAs.
As far as the PHP / open-source question, I definitely advise people to learn it, but I say that with the knowledge that you probably won’t be using it working for a media company in the next few years. PHP is great and I love all the innovation around it, but most companies are still running legacy systems in ASP.NET, Java or other technologies and will bust out some criticism about scalability and support issues if you suggest moving to PHP / MySQL. (Facebook apparently not being large-scale and uptime-critical enough.) So, while PHP is great if you want to set up a site from scratch and will be useful when it becomes more supported with big sites, you probably won’t need it on a day-to-day job basis.
Apologies to any non-code people who were bored stiff on this one.