Dear Q&A Team,
I am a journalism student at Rutgers University. My professor gave us an assignment to think about the things we should prepare for when we go out into the field. I want to hear from journalists about the lessons they learned in their career. Has anything changed since they became journalists? Do they have any regrets? Is there anything they wish they knew about working with editors?
Dear Media Advisory,
That is an interesting class assignment! Here are 12 experts from the ProfNet community who share the lessons they learned during their media career:
When I started working in media, I wish I had known…
"…that we’d spend just as much time doing the un-fun stuff – emailing, pitching, etc. – as actually writing. And no matter how old you get, fear of rejection and the well running dry never goes away!" -Aly Walansky, beauty/travel/lifestyle writer for SheKnows, xoJane.com and more
"… that you need to approach the editor of a section and specifically pitch content for his/her section. The process of coming up with a story first and then blasting it out to every media outlet hoping they'll figure out a way to make it fit in is a completely failed technique. It never works. Now I see PR professionals doing it to me to get on my blog and guess what, it still never works.” -David Spark (@dspark), founder of the brand journalism firm, Spark Media Solutions
"…more about how things actually worked. In my first job, I didn't know a lot of basics -- things like tax rates, garbage issues, economic development, etc. All issues that communities struggle with. I learned all that, but on the fly. I was lucky that I started in a small city where people like the city treasurer and the city council people were good teachers and incredibly patient.” -Marc Allan, adjunct professor of journalism at Butler University
"…listen to my editor. Journalists get nowhere resisting an editor. Posing a thoughtful question is one thing, but disagreeing in public is a killer and it will hurt the entire enterprise and, possibly, the writer's ability to gain cred. I should add that over time I learn to be sensitive to my editor's time and comments and it wasn't too long before I because the go-to reporter. I think the act of listening and acting on the editor's ideas made all the different “ -Michael Ray Smith, journalism professor and writer at FeatureWriting.net
"...that I could be myself with editors and clients -- appropriately funny. Now I know that it puts them more at ease and tends to make them want to work with me. Like I say: I'm serious about my work, but fun to work with.” -Michele Wojciechowski, award-winning author, humorist, and journalist who also performs not-yet awarding-winning stand-up comedy
"…that journalism doesn't pay, and the hours are rough. I loved writing and editing and wished I could have stayed, but young and married with a family on the way, I had to seek greener (cash) pastures." - Jeff McHugh, former journalist, now owner-operator of JTM Technology
"…that specializing in one or two topics is essential. When I first started, I was a generalist. Now, I specialize in pets/wildlife and interiors. I also wish I knew that it is essential to be flexible, and to look to various forms of writing -- not just for publications. Now, you can write for nonprofits, corporations, and small businesses.” -Michele C. Hollow, freelancer and pet and wildlife writer for a Parade.com
"…that I'd be laid off at the peak of my career." -Tim Massie, former broadcast journalist, now director of corporate giving at Actavis plc.
"…that I would have to reinvent myself, and reimagine what a career in journalism would look like after the bottom tanked in this business.” -Jennifer Nelson, freelance journalist and author of "Airbrushed Nation: The Lure & Loathing of Women's Magazines"
"…how essential it is to be fearless. Not arrogant or insensitive, but fearless in going after that one last source. Or fearless in asking that question one more time in a different way to get an answer. Fearless in checking the facts one more time or three more times, to make sure I'm accurate. As journalism goes through massive changes, I try to be fearless in the face of new technology, new methods, new platforms and new ways to communicate. But when I started, no one really told me I had to be fearless. “ –Carol Zuegner, associate professor of journalism at Creighton University
"…not to take everything personally. Some editors love to leave their very heavy footprint on your work. Others know just how to buff and polish what you already have down. Everyone has a job to do and in many ways, as much as you feel like the centerpiece, you’re just another piece of a greater puzzle.” –Rachel Weingarten, celebrity style columnist for Parade.com and author of the forthcoming "Ancient Prayer: Channeling Your Faith 365 Days of the Year" (Fall River Press, March 2014)
"…that talent can take you pretty far, but you have to have a little luck and good timing to make it long-term." -Amanda Changuris, former TV news reporter, currently a marketing and communications specialist at Frederick Regional Health System
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