Q: How would you suggest I approach my future in teaching? Should I go for the master's now, or should I get another three years under my belt first? I've been in the business professionally now for almost two years. Let me know what you think.
AndreA: Many journalists teach at local universities part time as adjuncts and have no master's degrees.
Try to teach as soon as you feel ready. If you'd like to build more confidence before you face a roomful of college students, practice in high schools that are looking for journalists to come out for career days and the like.
The master's degree become critical if you want to go for a full-time, tenure-track position.
Q: I love your blog and it's helped me put a lot of things in perspective. I figure that you could help me with my latest dilemma.
I am 19 years old and have aspired to be a journalist since I was a little kid. I graduated from high school and went to college for one semester as a journalism major but dropped out because of money issues. I had gone into school with an internship at a local newspaper I did during my senior year that lasted about six months. I worked at the student newspaper for a few months as well. I wrote an article every week and ended up with A LOT of clips. Well, in June, after working a few odd jobs and applying to a few schools I found an ad in my local newspaper (the same one I interned for) for a reporter. The only qualifications they listed were "quick thinking and decisive. Interest in words. Background in English."
So I applied to the job, expecting nothing but hoping for the best. A few weeks passed and a couple days ago I got a call from the editor of the paper and she asked me to come in for an interview. I came in, did it, and got the job. I'm thrilled but I'm a little confused by the whole thing. The editor did say that my cover letter impressed her and my clips impressed her because I know how to write a good lead. I also told her that although I'm not in school right now I do plan on getting a degree.
My question is: How do I show everyone in the office that I'm the real deal? I know that I'm in this for the long haul and am willing to do whatever I need to. I'm just nervous that I won't be taken seriously by my colleagues because of my lack of experience, lack of high education and my age. Any advice is appreciated.
A: Congratulations! This is fairly amazing. I'd be nervous, too.
You've shown one person -- the editor -- that you're the real deal. That must count for something. Here's how to show the others.
Work hard. A lack of experience can be overcome with earnest effort.
Ask questions. You know you have much to learn. So do the others. Enlist their help.
Learn from your mistakes. You're bound to make a lot of them. Learn from each one and never make the same mistake twice.
Be yourself. Bluffing doesn't work in a newsroom.
Act and dress professionally. If you don't want to be taken for a kid, conduct yourself professionally -- without any of that bluffing.
Q: I graduated college three months ago and got my first job working as a reporter about a month ago at a 21,000-circ. daily. I love it so far and can definitely tell I'll get some good clips here that would enable me to start looking for a job at a bigger newspaper in about a year. However, I'm already being faced with a situation I knew I would come to eventually. My significant other has been given a job offer that's too good to turn down, and he has the option of moving in about a year from now -- but he has to let them know in four months where to. It's a little hard to coordinate a job search within those time constraints, especially because I know most newspapers rarely start looking to fill positions six months ahead of time. So here's my question: What happens if you move for personal reasons and can't find a job in journalism where you're at? Every time I imagine thinking of working in another field, I get sad and depressed. I also have high goals for myself and know that taking a break from journalism can hurt me big time. What can I do to ensure that even if I do have to move to a specific area, thus greatly limiting the number of newspapers I can apply to, I can stay in journalism?
We do have the option of staying where we're at -- it just means I would have to stay on at my current newspaper about two or three years longer than I wanted to. Should I stay and keep the security of a job in journalism, or should I take the plunge and hope I can get another job? (I do have one big bonus on my side -- I have a lot of experience with online reporting.)
A: I wish I could give you an easy answer.
It is clear that you love what you're doing, and there's a lot to be said for that. I would get in to see the newspaper in the other city or cities, to get an idea whether the newsroom culture there is as good as the one you're in. See whether there might be more than one paper you could jump too. Ask the editors what you would need to do to move into position there. With that additional information, you'll be better prepared to make a good decision. You like being a reporter. Use your reporting skills to make your choice.
Q: One of our daughters wishes to become an editor. She is in the 6th grade, homeschooled. The girl has read voraciously since she learned to read (I'm talking a Brian Jacques size novel every two days for years now) and I am wondering if she will need extensive grammar to be prepared for this or simply a solid working knowledge of the English language. She is a good writer for her age. Please advise.
A: I would be reluctant to push her into extensive grammer at this age. I feel pretty good that, with her love for reading, that will come.
Let her continue to do what she loves. Encourage her curiosity. Let her explore a wide range of interests. Show her how to be skeptical without being cyncial. Snd help her get used to working with a wide variety of people.
These skills are even more important to editors than a good grasp of grammar.
Q: I'm 25 and more than a year and a half into my first reporting job. I work at a small (so small we don't even have a website) weekly paper but have always dreamed of moving on to a daily. I worked my butt off in college and reported for the school paper. I was even part of a group of students who won a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for stories we wrote that were published all across the state.
I give every story my all and people have always complimented my writing. I've applied to several larger papers and was interviewed by some, but, almost invariably, I have been told they won't hire me because I don't have enough experience. The papers I tried for seemed like the next logical step up from where I am, but I've run into a catch-22: If you don't already have the experience, employers won't allow you to get it.
I've always been passed over by dailies for internships and jobs. How can I ever get a job at a daily if prior daily experience is a requirement? The thing is, I know I can handle anything life throws at me, but I've never discovered the magic words that will convince a prospective employer of that.
Am I just too ambitious and too impatient? Should I wait longer when I feel small-town newspapering has already taught me most everything it can teach me? How do you convince the big guys you are not a lightweight?
A: I can understand your frustration.
But don't fall into the trap that so many people do: "how can I get experience if no one will give me experience?" What those editors are really telling you -- they should say it -- is that they are hiring more experience people.
This suggests two directions: Keep working and apply later or, better, apply to smaller places where you will be more competitive. It sounds as though you're good, you're just applying within pools of people who have more daily experience than you do. Keep trying, but apply to smaller dailies or dailies in places where you think they'll get less-experienced applicants.
Q: I currently work for a 22,000-circulation daily in a major metro region. The paper is small with low pay and little growth opportunity. It's award-winning and has great management. I've learned a lot, but I'm ready to move on.
I regularly scoop the competition and I've developed major stories that went national and international. I've only worked for one paper in my career, but received a number of awards and two unsolicited job offers from competitors. One initially called me in to interview for assistant city editor, then offered me a reporting spot. I turned both offers down - despite significant salary increases - because I wasn't comfortable with the management.
Now I want to make the move to a larger paper with a good reputation. Is it unreasonable for me to aim for papers with 100,000 circulation or more. There's a 50,000-circulation paper on the east coast. Is that a better option for me?
Thanks for your help,
A: Generally, I'd tell you to shoot for 50,000. Doubling the circulation size is not bad. But your resume looks good and I think a larger paper could do well with you.
Q: I was wondering if you could comment on what has been happening at the Santa Barbara News-Press in California. (I hope it's not too presumptuous to assume you have read about it).
The still-unfolding story of mass resignations, internal disputes and alleged editorial interference has been covered quite a bit in the media --- seven stories in Editor & Publisher alone by my count. It has brought up issues of ethics, labor/management conflicts, and paper ownership in a rather dramatic fashion.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you were a newsroom employee there, what would you do?
A: I've been watching, along with the rest of the industry.
Given my vantage point -- half a continent away -- I am not in a position to say anything that is very well informed. After all the words that have been spilled, I wouldn't be original, either.
Would I stay or would I go? And, by extension, what do I think people there should do? I can't say. Each of us is in a different predicament. The more times I go through difficult situations, the more sure I become that I do not want to make -- or judge -- anyone else's decisions.
We have seen that some people could not wait to get out of the News-Press. Others will hang in because they can't move, have to feed their children or can't find something they'd rather do. I don't know whether you work there or anything else about you. Who you are is easily as important as the place where you work. The decisions come from inside; they are not imposed from the outside.