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A couple career questions

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by GGBonkers, Dec 27, 2019.

  1. justgladtobehere

    justgladtobehere Well-Known Member

    Am I missing something?
  2. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    You've received good, rational advice and I suggest you follow a lot of it.

    I'm going to give you some different insights that you can feel free to discard if you want. You probably should discard some of it.

    *You've correctly assessed you don't have a bunch of high-profile internships on your resume. Since most editors are pressed for time and efficiency in their hiring, they're going either going to look for people out of college who have won awards/interned at big names or somebody who's already in the office and requires no effort (or advertisement) to hire. That's why people tell you about networking. I'd start by going to the people in the profession you already know and asking them for jobs, so they can give you one or tell you they don't have one for you or tell you about someone who might. Whatever network you have, start there. Get people to commit to giving you good recommendations.

    *Journalism is, these days, a lot of work for mediocre-to-awful money, unless you get a big job out of college, which only a handful of folks do and was preordained to happen within a few months of their arrival in college, or perhaps even before. Do you like money? Will you have a lot of school loans to pay off? Do you have fairly wealthy parents who can pay for part of your life until you get a better journalism job or decide to leave the industry because the money stinks? Can you live frugally, happily? Some people can. Others see their friends working as a social media consultant at a bank or brand manager for a marketing agency or financial advisor and get jealous because they rightly understand the American life is generally judged by having money for experiences, cool foods and drink, gifts and material goods. You might as well know yourself on this front before you even leap into journalism. You will be closer to the poverty line than, in more cases than anyone would admit, a fast-food worker. Unless your parents have money to float your life. Many young journalists' parents do. Poor or lower middle class people rarely want to get into journalism because they're smart enough to know it won't help their financial profile.

    *Having a ton of skills can be helpful, but it also means, when editors see it on your resume, they may try to take advantage of all that skillset. There is always going to be some editor or publisher who sees a multi-talented person and figures "well, they'll just do everything." Pretty soon, that person is doing a little of everything - for 29,000 a year - while social media consultant farts out 12 tweets a day and posts some photos to Instagram for 40k. I could be wrong about a shitload of skills getting you in the door. In my experience, it hasn't had much to do with that and you'll notice the highest-paid folks at most shops usually don't have those skills, relying instead on others to have them for them. It's good to have the skills, of course, but using it as a calling card is a recipe for someone to take advantage of you.

    *If you want to be a sportswriter, my advice is to get good at writing human interest features - sob story type features included - because editors respond to that. (Readers/viewers do, too.). If the last person on the bench nearly died from an allergic reaction to peanut dust when they were in Sunday school six years before, your editors will find that more interesting - and you more enterprising - than some feature on the leading scorer's work ethic. So I'd work on, adding to your file, human interest features. Sentimentality.

    *It's easier to say this on a message board, but: Dressing well, being "winsome" - God I hate that word - and being well-groomed is more valuable than any skillset. We live in a visually-driven universe today. Shallow, too. Few of these extra skills are actually hard to learn, or even master. So coming off a certain way - laid-back, fun, eager but not urgent, not judgmental, - is helpful. Dress well.

    *Have a cool hobby. Maybe you already do. If not, create one. Outdoors ones are good. Running, biking. Collect something a child might collect; it makes you look committed and nostalgic for the great childhood you must have had, since you're still collecting childhood things. Have a pet and act like it's really important. If you've traveled cool places, play that up - it means you or someone have money to pay for big experiences. Traveling is one of the best. Include hobbies on a resume if you can.

    *Scrub your social media accounts of anything inappropriate or controversial. You should have never posted inappropriate stuff in the first place, so be glad you're scrubbing that now. Your social media feed going forward can very easily consist of opinions like "LeBron James = good" or "Lizzo = good" or "I love Pixar movies" or
    "Baby Yoda!" Take a look around, today, at the roads. See all those gray and silver SUVs out there? You want your social media accounts to be a gray or silver SUV.

    *Be willing to move. If you're willing to do that, you'll probably find something.
  3. Azrael

    Azrael Well-Known Member

    Write good sentences.
    swingline likes this.
  4. GGBonkers

    GGBonkers New Member

    Yeah, this is one part I don't have to worry about. Loved sports my whole life. Played soccer up through college. Watch, read, follow sports religiously, etc. etc. Knew at the beginning of college I wanted to be around sports, just didn't know in what capacity.

    My point just that she was able to work towards acquiring relevant experiences for her future dream job from the moment she entered college. On the other hand, I changed my path halfway through college, and don't have the higher profile internships. That's not to say I would have those internships if I followed her trajectory, but I guess I would feel more comfortable with where I stand currently if I had an extra two years of journalism experience on my resume.
    Batman likes this.
  5. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Honest post.
  6. Fredrick

    Fredrick Well-Known Member

    Remember you are entering a dying profession. No matter what anybody says about the fact there will always be news organizations quite frankly right now we CONTINUE to be in a period of mass layoffs. The only talk outside of the Washington Post and NY Times is how newspapers are dying. You can continue to pursue news writing but you better get a degree in something useful lest you get laid off. This is a very low paying profession right now with an expectation to work or at least be on call 24/7. Good luck.
  7. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Well-Known Member

    One thing I have seen in my family is the difficulty of working your way up the newspaper ladder while in a relationship. If you are a small town journalist your significant other probably has a better and more secure job.

    My journalist grandfather married his school teacher college girlfriend at age 23. He then worked at four papers over the next 11 years before landing a job in Minneapolis. His spouse followed him while having four children.

    But today my grandmother would be probably working as a teacher and making more money with a secure job. Would she be willing to move?

    I saw this happen to a small-town journalist relative. She loved her job. But she got involved with a small business owner who did not want to give up his business to move. She got stuck in a very small market.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2020
    justgladtobehere likes this.
  8. ADanielPandR

    ADanielPandR Member

    I have a lot to say about this point, but I will try to be as brief as possible.

    From my experience, this is exceptionally sage advice. In my last two jobs, my own features and fun-fact pieces and the ones my colleagues wrote were consistently the best-received. (Although, unfortunately, they were not always the best-read. Some outlets are most concerned with clicks, even if that means angering readers with opinionated content and inciting a wave of comments that could damage the site's reputation and the author's in the long run.)

    I forget who said this, but someone in an installment of BASW explained the distinction between sportswriting as a compound word and sports writing as a two-word phrase. The way I put it, the former means writing about sports, whereas the latter means writing about people who are involved in sports.

    Personally, I grew disillusioned with sportswriting because, as so many others have said, newspaper sports reportage as we have long known it is dying. I wanted to emulate the disembodied bylines I idolized through spirit-capturing game stories (emphasis on stories), notebooks, news updates and features that made readers feel like they were there. Instead, today's landscape is heavy on commentary, analysis, scouting reports, rankings, predictions, video debates and other inflammatory white noise that calls the whole sports-bring-people-together adage into question.

    With that said, there are bottomless barrels of untold stories in the sports world and the world in general, and tapping into those narratives is the way to set yourself and your affiliated publication apart from others (I.e. give readers something they won't find anywhere else). It is also the way to make the most of your storytelling prowess, which is inevitably restrained when you are doing analytical game content.

    Granted, this path has no guarantees either. I have only recently returned to the freelance circuit, and am still looking for more biting fish. But the best part about pursuing sports writing rather than sportswriting is that you can establish a skill set that transcends subject matters. You don't need to be an "expert" on a given game or profession to craft a compelling human-interest narrative for a sports journal, alumni magazine, entertainment publication, or general-interest site. You need an eagle's eye, a bloodhound's nose and a shark's appetite for intriguing angles, a knack for brainstorming and asking detailed questions that elicit insightful responses and an ability to transform your observations and people's insights into a fluid, eloquent narrative.

    I think that's the kind of work that inspired all of us to pursue sports journalism in the first place. But even if broadsheets and game recaps are going extinct, we can and should feed and foster a craving for beyond-the-game stories. Even if readers and editors do not seem to be showing that widespread craving now, they ought to in due time.

    It's still a question of loving the game - and, more importantly, loving life - and capturing the way newsmakers demonstrate that love themselves.
    Dog8Cats likes this.
  9. Liut

    Liut Well-Known Member

    Oh, my God, I once inherited a kid like this. Did not know what a grand slam was ... it was a nightmare.

    Later learned he joined a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Definitely, the kid needed to grow up, but I was very concerned for reasons of national security.
    Batman likes this.
  10. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    With our guy, I had to literally explain what a ball and a strike were, and what happens when you get four and three of them. He invented a new baseball/softball stat called "base runs" that I'm still trying to figure out what it is. Somebody in one of the games he covered had six or seven of them, so I guess that was a good performance.
    I've always compared trying to teach the finer points of the profession to him with trying to teach Shakespeare to somebody who doesn't know how to read. The fact he was a surly asshole didn't help matters.
    Whenever we've interviewed people since then, I make it a point to ask if they actually know some of the basic rules of sports. I never want to go through that again.
  11. Liut

    Liut Well-Known Member

    Wow! Just, wow.

    A surly asshole? At least my guy was a good person, put forth a respectable effort, but was just simply miscast by my predecessor.
  12. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    Yeah, he had a bad attitude that only got worse as I got frustrated with him and our relationship soured. Our desks were across from each other, and whenever I tried to tell him something he had the "pull out one ear bud and give the annoyed half head turn and eye roll" move down pat.
    He slow-walked stories, and the ones he did turn in were poorly written and riddled with mistakes of all sorts. Then he said I was "stealing his voice" as a writer by cleaning them up.
    He left right before the following football season, not having turned in several of his preview stories. He did, however, find time to write a scorched earth resignation letter that basically called everyone in the newsroom assholes and racists for not giving him more input on how things were done.
    I think he thought he was going to be hired as a small town sports writer and immediately become an ESPN talking head type who mostly gives opinions. He had no clue how the actual day to day business operates, and didn't much care to learn.
    He's been gone five years and I still call him an asshole whenever his name is brought up.

    So, the lesson to the OP here is don't be that guy.
    It's fine not to know something. But be willing to learn how to do it, how and where to find out about it, or to ask smart questions about how it's done. If you're inexperienced and you know it (which seems to be the case), take some of the criticism to heart in a positive way. Your work will be tweaked, sometimes for the better and occasionally for the worse, if you have an editor that gives a damn. A good editor will also save your ass by catching and correcting your mistakes, often without ever mentioning them. You might kill yourself to get a story done on time, then some event happens that pushes its publication back a few days or kills it altogether.
    Don't ever take it personally, because it's not. That's part of the business.

    I'll also add one more tip. Whenever you write a story, make sure your copy is clean and it's done on time. The fastest way to piss off your boss is to turn in work that's not only late but also riddled with typos and other mistakes that need to be corrected. If they know they always have to spend an extra 30 minutes rewriting and editing your stories, that's an annoyance they don't have time for. You'll make a lot more friends if they can breeze through your story and just correct a typo or two, or tighten up some paragraphs.
    There can be time and opportunities to fine tune your writing style and experiment with different techniques. You'll find there are a lot more of both -- and a lot more patience from your editors to give them to you -- if you show you can walk before you run.
    GGBonkers and Liut like this.
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