I had this e-mailed to me a while back. I don’t know where it originated from or who wrote it, but I feel like it’s one of those things that should be shared. It’s a little dated, but it’s hilarious and thoughtful advice for young journalists venturing out into the professional world for the first time nonetheless.
That, and I need something to keep me entertained while I wait for my video to upload.
If I could offer you only one piece of advice for maintaining your sanity in the newspaper industry, alcohol would be it. Writers since the birth of the printing press have attested to alcohol’s time-honored value, whereas the rest of my advice is no more valid than the rantings of any other disgruntled scribe.
Enjoy the freedom and opportunities of your youth. No matter how jaded you may think you already are, in just a few years you’ll look back and miss the period of your life when the world seemed so fresh and full of possibility.
Don’t worry about writing enough stories or working enough hours to satisfy your editor. You will never write as many stories or work as many hours as your editor did. You are not as lazy as your editor thinks.
Write poetry and fiction. It’s the only opportunity you will have to exercise your creativity. Just don’t do it on the computer at work.
Do not gossip about your co-workers’ personal lives. Be careful of anyone who does, since they will gossip about yours as well. This should effectively rule out socializing with your entire newsroom.
If you can succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Frame your awards. Save your rejection letters. That way, when you make it big, you can write to the editors who snubbed you and tell them what idiots they were for not hiring you.
Get a master’s degree if you like. But remember that one year at a prestigious journalism school will not look as good on your resume as a night in jail for protecting a source.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know the names of all the Baltic states. Most journalists I know don’t know the names of any of the Baltic states. Despite what you were told in school, it just doesn’t matter. (Unless of course, you live in one of the Baltic states.)
Read anything other than a newspaper or a magazine for at least an hour a day.
Enjoy your creativity and inspiration. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Maybe you’ll stay a reporter, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll be promoted to bureau chief, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll become city editor at age 30, maybe you’ll be editing wire copy when you retire. Whatever the case, you will never get rich working for a newspaper unless you own it.
Date, even if you have nowhere to meet people your own age except the local community college.
Never repeat aloud things you have been told off the record. It will needlessly inflate your editors’ hopes and make you think your story is better than it really is.
Your story is not as good as you think it is. If you do not believe e, pick it up in six months and take another look at it. Doing this on a regular basis is a healthy reminder never to rest on your laurels.
But any time someone claims newspapers are not as great as they used to be, browse through your paper’s archives. Unless your newspaper was bought by Gannett, doing this will make you feel better about your work.
Read job openings in Editor and Publisher every week, even if you do not apply for them. Do not read journalism magazines. They will only make you feel depressed about the state of the industry.
Beware of lengthy job classifieds. The quality of the newspaper is inversely proportional to the number of words it spends promoting itself.
Send out resumes as soon as you arrive at your new job. It will take twice as long to get out of there as you expect, and when it’s finally time to leave, believe me, you will appreciate every single day that you no longer have to work there.
Be nice to the interns. They just may go farther than you.
Live on either coast or in a large city in between. Do not live anywhere else, no matter how good the job may seem.
Get out of town whenever you can. You will have less vacation time in the next 12 years than you had in the last 12 months.
Accept certain inalienable truths. Newspapers will never live up to their potential. You cannot regularly work more than 60 hours a week. You too will pass your prime. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, newspapers were great and reporters worked 100 hours a week without complaining.
Complain. Go to the bar. Get online. See a psychiatrist if you must. It is always better to vent in private than to pull a Jerry Maguire in the middle of the newsroom.
But do not waste time complaining to your boss. No matter how right you are, no matter how much your newspaper purports to be a watchdog for the working man, editors hate nothing more than whining. They will only hold it against you. Especially if your employer happens to be the wrongdoer.
Don’t mess with your clips. If you get caught doctoring them, you can forget whatever job or prize you were aiming for in the first place. Don’t worry, your peers have to deal with dumb headlines and bad copy editing as well. Editors and contest judges understand the constraints you’re working under.
Big newspapers are not always better than small newspapers, but they are usually more tolerable places to work. The most important thing to look at in any prospective employer is its track record. Unlike mutual funds, a newspaper’s recent performance is a reliable indicator of its future potential. But wherever you go, do not expect happiness. It stinks everywhere.
Everyone in the newspaper industry will offer you advice. Most of it is useless, however, since success in newspapers has less to do with effort or talent than it does with fate and circumstance. Advice is a form of catharsis. Dispensing it enables journalists to connect with a captive audience in a way they never could with readers.
But trust me on the alcohol.