Friday, October 30, 2009

Career Advice?

Yesterday I had the pleasure (and it really was a pleasure) of sitting in on Sarah O'Connor's class on written argumentation at James Madison University. I was there to talk generally as an essayist and the editor of WMRA's Civic Soapbox. I had met Sarah when she, herself, had hopped up on the Soapbox, and I think it's safe to say we share a love of the reach and power of words.

The class and I had 45 minutes together. The students, refreshingly, did not take notes, but simply listened and talked. In effect, the 20 or so of us in the room had a focused conversation about civil discourse, writing essays and working in journalism. It was just the kind of get-together that really floats my journalistic boat.

Interestingly, a half-dozen or so students were seriously interested in writing careers--everything from screen-writing through I-don't-know-what-yet  to sports journalism. Since I have (and this, of course, is just my opinion) one of the best gigs in journalism, naturally they asked me to give them some advice on how to get their careers started.

I've always been happy to give students advice whenever I can--and by this I mean I'm happy to pass on what's worked for me in the past and what's working for me now. But yesterday I realized that my past has little relevance to their futures; that I, myself, am in the process of re-inventing the shape of my own journalistic output; indeed, that all us journalists are making up our careers as we go along.

Why? Because any kind of journalist these days and, mostly likely very soon, any kind of writer must consider the internet as a way to reach her/his audience.

As to what advice I gave . . .

First of all, work hard at getting to be a good writer, but then just to do what I do now, which is network with other journalists and writers to figure out how to crawl out of the box of the printed page (or, indeed, in WMRA's case, of just the airwaves). Future working journalists will be those of us who can communicate across platforms, and who are willing to take the risk of figuring out how to do this in ways that generate income.

Other than that, the future of journalism and so journalist's careers--mine as well as those students'--is even murkier than my own backyard was this July morn.

I, for one, find this a wonderfully creative time to be working in words.

1 comment:

  1. Ahh! What a beautiful things! I'll definitely check this work and I am sure it will be awesome!