I often get asked about making it in journalism, and it’s not an easy question. I mean, A. What does “making it” really mean? and B. How does one make it in 2016? C. Have I actually made it?
Hell, nobody wants to work for a print newspaper. And most websites pay shit. And as I get older, it (admittedly) becomes harder to place myself in the shoes of a 22-year old.
But there’s one eternal truth, and it’s this: Busting your ass gets results. And doing so creatively doesn’t hurt.
Two stories to explain …
• 1. Back when I was at the University of Delaware, working at the student newspaper, a bunch of us attended a young journalism conference in Philadelphia. The event was held at the Daily News/Inquirer office building, and there were professionals offering resume advice and holding seminars and the like. It was fine—some stiffs broke down your resume; others spoke of myriad fields; etc … etc.
Well, the editor of our college paper, a fantastic guy name named Doug Donovan, hatched a plan. He and I snuck away from the conference and placed our resumes and clips atop myriad desks in the different departments. We scribbled notes on the packets that said, “This kid has some real talent …” and signed the letters in illegible handwriting. When then tiptoed back into the conference.
Did it land me a job? No. But could it have? Sure …
• 2. My first gig out of college was at The Tennessean in Nashville. One year the NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) was holding its annual convention in the city. My sports editor, a biggie in NABJ, asked for volunteers to help at different events. I raised my hand—one of the few, and definitely the only white guy. He told me, as a reward, I could attend the NABJ job fair. Awesome!
I entered the room—everyone was African-American, save a handful of reps from different papers. Well, armed with a stack of resumes and clips I went from table to table. I always remember my take to the Miami Herald woman: “I’m not black, but I love journalism and I’ll bust my rear for your newspaper …”
I walked away with two follow-up interviews and several lasting relationships.