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For whom should I work?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by djm825, Sep 4, 2013.

  1. djm825

    djm825 New Member

    I'm looking for a new job. What I want most in this new job is an editor or an overall environment that will help me get better.

    I'm three years out of grad school, and for those three years I've covered a major college football beat - one of the majorest. In those three years I've yet to have a single conversation with an editor or fellow writer about story structure. I've yet to have a story handed back to me with a note to go find another source or to re-report a certain element. I've yet to have a meaningful conversation about writing.

    I'd gladly cover cat fashion shows if it was for someone who could help me cover cat fashion shows well and tell me when I was doing a horrible job. I want to work for someone who gives a shit.

    Many of you, I gather, know the business well. So, I come here to ask where I can find these people. Are there particular editors I should be nagging or begging for a job? Who are the best editors at developing talent? Am I asking too much of a future employer? Does this kind of thing even exist anymore?

    If money or prestige or a relevant beat or Twitter followers or whatever was left out of the equation, and it was just about writing for and with the people who were going to make you better, for whom would you want to work?
  2. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    All those grammar points you collected for your well constructed thread title were forfeited when you wrote "majorest."
  3. djm825

    djm825 New Member

    You see! That's just the kind of pro tip I'm looking fo..., errr, for which I am looking.

    Seriously though, I've got a list of about a dozen places that I'd like to target based on the type of talent they've produced in the past decade or so. I'd love to hear suggestions any of you may have to help me find out where I hit and where I missed as I get ready to begin my Jehovah's Witness routine. I'm guessing there are some others out there in a similar position that might find your opinions to be a useful resource.
  4. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I'm told there were once newsrooms full of people who gave a shit. I don't know when or where that was. In my experience, you're lucky to find one or two people who really are dedicated to help you get better. And even then ...

    Look, even my best editors — and I'd still run through a brick wall for them, today — didn't have a meaningful conversation with me about story structure. I learned a lot from watching them and from watching co-workers I admired.

    But the constructive conversations I've had about writing or reporting or editing were mostly "here you go, don't fuck it up" or "you fucked up; don't ever fucking do it again." That's how daily journalism works.
  5. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    You can end a sentence on a preposition and sound like a dick when you obnoxiously avoid it.
  6. SoCalDude

    SoCalDude Active Member

    I've been eager to help our writers, but never given the authority. And our editors do absolutely no teaching or coaching.
    We have one younger guy, a talented but green writer covering a major beat. I gave him a couple of writing tips recently and he complained to the SE that I chewed him out. I'd trade him in a second for the guy who started this thread, a person who doesn't think they know it all and is eager to learn.
  7. Glenn Stout

    Glenn Stout Member

    I hear djm825's complaint from writers nearly every day, and it's true.
  8. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    Know what? It's not just editors. Follow writers you admire on Twitter. Start conversations, not about asking for advice, but just about things. You'll learn, and as you become friends, THEY'LL help you.
  9. SnarkShark

    SnarkShark Well-Known Member

    I empathize with djm825. I've had this issue at a few stops in my career.

    In my experience, there are many types of editors, but two are more common than most.

    The first is the editor that doesn't care, will publish anything, barely makes any changes and gives you no feedback. These are the most common in the current journalism culture.

    The second is the editor that cares so much that they essentially re-write the writers' copy. There is obviously no excuse for this, but I had a former editor that hijacked young reporters' voices and re-wrote stories in his own without consulting the reporters. Then, when those reporters would challenge him, he'd say he was more experienced, knew better and the story was better after his changes. If you want to write, be a reporter. If you want to be an editor, stick to editing and make your reporters look better.

    What I've learned is to keep in touch with people who do give a shit from your past gigs or even a professor from J-school that you can bounce important stories off of. I have a couple of those people and when I'm looking to get feedback, I send my pieces to them.
  10. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    I'll push back a little bit here.

    Writers aren't always great editors. And great writers sometimes have little understanding or patience for how to make below average stuff above average. Finally, writers can have a little tunnel vision. They don't see the six ways something could be done. They don't usually ask the weird questions editors will ask. And writers, very rarely, seek to simplify their stories, when that's what most good writing needs -- to be stripped of certain distinctives that doesn't add what the writer think it does.
  11. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    If you really want the help, look for a paper with an older guy as editor who has been there for decades, a smaller to mid-size publication that more times than not is family owned. This may mean moving to in-the-middle-of-nowhere USA and taking a ridiculously low paying job. They are out there, but a lot of times, it's hit or miss. And yes, nowadays too many places are full of jaded editors/writers, etc who are dealing with furloughs, pay cuts, etc.....so it's hard to find a good shop.
  12. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    On the other hand, I've encountered some writers (and editors) who say they want to be coached, but what they really want is validation. Try not to waste people's time just so you can feel good about yourself. I've become more skeptical (cynical) when I'm asked. If I get the sense the person can't be bothered to read his own paper, I have no qualms about blowing off the request.

    The really copout (but true) answer is that you won't get everything from any one person. The list of people who taught me is incredibly long, and I wouldn't have been ready for some of them a few years before I met them. And in hindsight I have a few regrets about people I shut out and could have learned from. The big lesson is that it's not necessary to like the teacher. It's relatively easy to find people who tell you what you want to hear, but people who will tell you the truth are harder to come by. I can't count how often my opinion about someone has changed decades later or how many people have reached out years later to tell me exactly what they learned from me.

    And understand that no one is infallible. I have a nearly perfect track record in judging talent, but what keeps me humble is remembering one of the worst interns I've seen. He was godawful but has become hugely successful because he has an amazing work ethic. I got to tell him that a few years ago as his 50th birthday gift and I think it made both of us feel good when I said I've never seen anyone earn it more than he did.
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