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Archive for April 26th, 2007

If I didn’t have a job…

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

If I didn’t have a job, you better believe I would be taking Rob Curley up on this offer.

We’re looking for folks who want to build cool things, hang out with cool people, and work in one of the coolest offices you’ll see this side of Google. And it will all be under the guise of a college internship.

We’re looking for folks who want to work with us through the summer, as well as for longer internships.

Because of competitive reasons, I can’t really go into any details right now as to what you’ll be working on with us here at WPNI other than to say that the projects are uber-cool and will likely get lots of attention inside and outside of the news/media industry.

We want solid journalists who can write their backsides off. We’re also looking for programmers with an understanding of Django. And if you’re a kick-ass designer with killer Flash or motion-graphics skills, we want you.

But what we really want are self-motivated bad-asses who have at least one of the skills I listed above.

I never thought I’d regret graduating early or taking a job. But seriously, if you’re a college student or a grad who hasn’t quite figured out the next step, you should be scrambling as fast as possible to get over there. I’m not kidding. He alludes to some pay, but, honestly, that is one internship I would consider going into debt to take.

Not sure I can encourage his, if you’ve already accepted an internship, “call them to tell them that you’re sorry that you can’t make it, but that something has unexpectedly come up” comment. But, if there’s one internship to burn a bridge for, that’s probably it.

I’m totally serious. If I didn’t have a job, or if I had accepted a job I wasn’t digging as much as I am, I’d already be trying to get on this short list.

The keepers of institutional knowledge

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

This week I was reminded, again, of one thing a great j-school education and a solid internship can’t give you: institutional knowledge, about the paper and more importantly about the community.

It was the thing my editor cited in my 90-day review as being something I need to work on. He’s right, I need to know the back story. The reasons the things I’m covering now are happening.

At first, I thought well it’s easy for someone who has been here the majority of my life to say that. Easy, for someone who doesn’t remember what it’s like to pack up and move 400 miles away from anything they’ve ever known, because it’s been an awful long time since their last similar move. Easy, for someone who has that knowledge to get frustrated that I don’t.

But he’s right. And I’m reminded of that constantly when someone mentions a name and I have to ask, who? When I have to admit my ignorance and say, no I really don’t “remember when;” I wasn’t around. Or when someone who’s been a prominent figure in the community but is gone for a bit pops up in the news somewhere else, as happened this week.

I wish I could snap my fingers and have a database in my brain of how everything intersects in space, time and personal relationships. The reporter who covered my beat was gone before I even interviewed. Every contact I’ve made has been my own. I spend a great deal of time scanning our archives looking for these bits before heading to meetings or off to interviews. I don’t think anyone realizes how badly I want to have that knowledge. I just don’t — yet.

I really want to know. And I need someone to teach me, or more specificly, to be patient when I ask what comes across as a dumb question but that I legitimately need to know.

It’s hard to realize, or I guess the better word is remember, that I am not just new to this community. I’m new to this beat, and I’m new to doing this on a daily basis. I’ve been here three and a half months, which seems both like a long time and also like just a blip in the scheme of things. Though there are days and weeks where I surprise myself by how well I handle things, there are also times where I doubt my abilities. Sometimes, I wish there was an allowance for a learning curve, there was time to sit down and just shoot the breeze with someone who’s been around long enough to fill me in.

Thing is, the industry is being flooded with “kids” like me. Bright-eyed and ready for anything, willing to take everything on and to become an expert on whatever you put on the budget with our name beside it. Willing to learn. If there’s someone there to teach us.

The problem is, the industry is also letting those keepers of institutional knowledge, who’ve been at it as long as I’ve been alive, go in record numbers. The LA Times and the Chicago Tribune are laying off or letting go (or whatever their PR-speak is) hundreds of people, to add to the thousands who’ve already left nearly every other paper. Those are the people who know how events tie together, how year flows into year. They know to perk their ears up when they hear a certain name. They can brief a new comer like me on why something matters without having to search the (hard to navigate) archive for every trivial matter.

Last week when I was home, I stopped by Kent to talk to a few professors. One of them asked me about the newsroom staff and whether there were any editors or reporters in particular that I’m learning from. I kind of shrugged and said there is one guy who’s extremely helpful and who has been here forever… but he’s leaving soon to start a new career. I wonder how much institutional knowledge he’ll take with him, and whether “kids” like me will ever be able to amass and recover that much in our high-speed, hit-and-run, master-of-everything world. In the meantime, I’m peeling bits of it away every day while I still can.