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Archive for July, 2007

J&C’s new press one year anniversary

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

You hear a lot about the death of print publications, of newspapers on well paper. So it’s kind of ironic to me today that this is an anniversary for my publication’s re-dedication to the print product.

A year ago today the J&C officially launched its new press and became the first paper in North America with a Berliner format. I heard recently that Reading, Pa., is switching to the format. It probably won’t be the last. It’s funny because now when I go out of town or go home or even when I pick up the Indy Star in print, it feels so long and so clunky. So big. So unwieldly.

Obviously, I wasn’t here when they were changing up the format. I wasn’t here when they were putting out two papers a day as they worked out the kinks of the new system and coming up with the alternative story formats that are just a natural part of our coverage today. (I swear, charticles are a science here. We have a whole stylebook with different forms of them.)

I have been here to reap some rewards. Like ink that’s vibrant and doesn’t smudge. Like a paper with lots of pictures, graphics and a nice, clean design. Like a paper that’s comfortable to open and read without having to spread it across the table or refold it a dozen different ways. Like a focus on tighter writing, which I need, and more A1 stories because we strive for all-local fronts.

It does seem weird to celebrate a print product with all the focus on the Internet. But I’m glad they had the initiative and foresight to see what could be and to not say “well newspapers are dying anyway, why waste the time and money?” Instead, they produced what really is a better product. It looks better, feels better and serves readers better. Yeah, it may well and probably will be the last press they ever buy as we move every day more and more to a web-first mentality. At the same time, it’s a nod to the readers that we aren’t abandoning them, and as long as we’re putting out a print version, it’s worth putting out the best print version possible. And I can dig that.

I feel old

Monday, July 30th, 2007

I feel old. And it has nothing to do with my birthday yesterday.

Though, I will admit I feel sad not to be 21 anymore. I know everyone will think I’m crazy, especially since I’ve already lamented being treated young. But 21 is just a youthful age. It’s like, you have your whole life ahead of you. You can do ANYTHING. And it was a really good year for me. A lot of positive (and a few negative) things happened in my life.

But now, I’m officially 22. The next real birthday that counts for anything is 25. Then my car insurance goes down and I can run for U.S. Representative. Woo hoo. But seriously, I do realize that 22 is still really young, especially for where I am in life.

But why I really feel old has nothing to do with my age.

It has to do with my j-school peers. Over the past several months/weeks I have watched them landing jobs and several, many more than I would expect so soon, moving on to second jobs. Yes, second jobs. While I’m still worrying about my best pals who graduated in May and are still on the prowl, I’m watching Facebook statuses light up with excitement by peers I quit worrying about ages ago because they had a job. And now, they’re moving on. They’ve given their year and a half and they’re trading up.

It’s scary to me, to be honest. They’re all moving on so quickly, some it seems for the sake of moving on, because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?

My mom came to visit me in Lafayette this weekend. It was the first time she spent any time here. I had fun taking her around, showing her downtown, going to all the must-see and must-eat places. She had fun, and I realized, perhaps for the first time, how much this place has grown on me in just six months. I’ve finally figured out the one way streets and how to pronounce and spell all the Indian names.

I’m already sad at the prospect of leaving it someday. And as I watch my peers galloping toward their futures, I’m scared about how soon that someday might approach. I guess that’s the nature of the beast, right? Most people do move on from their first job within a few years, and those who don’t adopt a new home or get stuck not being able to move up. I’m not ready for either just yet. As I told one of my friends here, I’ll stay as long as I’m still learning new things, as long as there are new things for me to learn. How long that will be, I don’t know. I guess I should just feel lucky that I landed somewhere that I’m not just biding my time waiting for the next best thing to come along (as some people were and have jumped ship as soon as it did come). I really like it here, even the things I hate I can handle. I’m OK with that.

Ask the AP Style experts…

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

I just came across this “Ask the editor” feature from APStylebook.com.

Next time you have an AP style question you just don’t know the answer to and none of the editors or copy editors can give you a definitive answer, this is the go-to resource. I just skimmed through it a bit and already I’ve had a few lingering style questions answered for me.

BTW: I saw the link on the NewsU ACCESS blog.

Breaking from the constant contact

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

The first thing I do every morning when I wake up is reach for my phone. There are two reasons for this. First, I use it as my alarm clock, and at 7 a.m. I just want it to shut up. But the second, far worse reason is, I want to check my e-mail.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to check for new e-mail that has arrived since bedtime and dawn. I know, and tell myself each day when I do it, that nobody else was up to send me e-mails. Even if they did, surely the e-mail can wait until I brush my teeth, right? And yet, every morning, I do it anyway.

Today, I read this article, Stop Your BlackBerry From Being the Boss, and I have to confess. Yesterday, when I was at dinner with a friend/co-worker, I was texting another friend, granted the other friend was part of the conversation but that’s beside the point. How many times have I been annoyed when someone else was having a phone conversation instead of engaging in the conversation at table? And though I laugh a bit about it now, I have, most definitely, checked my e-mail while driving. Haven’t you?

Apparently, and I think the story is right, this is a sign I need to let go.

I used to get far more e-mail than I do now. Perhaps it’s just that I used to use one single account for both personal and professional e-mail, whereas now I have my J&C account and my gmail account (which my kent e-mail feeds into so it’s all together). To my credit, I rarely check the J&C account when I’m not sitting at my desk. But my personal e-mail? Constantly. When I’m sitting at my MacBook it’s constantly updating my status bar. When I’m at work, I have my personalized Google page constantly up in a tab which I check several times a day.

So, I’m going to try and internalize these four tips from the article:

  • There’s no such thing as an “email emergency.”

  • The world does not revolve around you.
  • Stick to a schedule.
  • Respect BlackBerry Blackout Zones.

And you know what? I’m pretty sure the world will keep spinning and nothing major will fall through. Because as item number one says, if it’s that important, someone will call me instead.

On the hunt…

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

If I ever doubted I did the right thing by graduating early, I don’t any more.

Maybe the job market didn’t suck as bad six months ago. (Though if you’d have asked me then, I’d have told you it was pretty impossible to find a journalism job and I may as well polish my burger-flipping skills.)

Maybe there was less competition. (This was actually, beyond the $8,000 I saved, my main motivation for a December graduation rather than June or August. I reasoned, fewer kids would be on the same schedule, so there wouldn’t be the same glut of unemployed entry-level reporters on the market.)

Maybe I just got lucky. (I think everything happens for a reason. No matter how much it sucks or how horrible it makes you feel, everything has a purpose in your life, even if it’s just to teach you how to cope with disappointment or failure.)

It could have been any of those things and it probably was that and much more. But I wouldn’t trade places with my peers on the prowl for a job now. Not for anything. In fact, their disappointments and struggles are actually depressing me a bit.

Most of the kids I know who graduated with me or when I should have this spring are in internships without job prospects lined up for next month or beyond. They’re mailing out packets and combing journalismjobs.com for any glimmer of the perfect job, or even a job they’re mostly qualified for in a place they wouldn’t mind living.

The kids I don’t talk to regularly keep me updated of their job hunting luck through facebook statuses range from “f* the newspaper industry” to “moving to XXX next month!”

I talked to one friend the other day who has gone on a few interviews and been so close, who got his hopes up only to have them crash down a few weeks later: We don’t have the budget right now. And he’s one of the most talented people I know! I mean seriously guys. If you need a designer, this kids got talent, ambition and intelligence beyond almost anyone else I know.

I’ve also seen some borderline cut-throat tactics going on. I mean, all’s fair in love and war … and job hunting, apparently. There’s been at least one thing I’ve watched and gone, “I could never do that to someone.”

But then, I’ve also talked to people who’ve just heard back from “the first editor who actually took an interest,” and even though they downplay it — who wants to get her hopes up and then have them dashed? — you can see they walk a little taller and have that twinkle in their eye that says, “I don’t suck after all. Someone wants to hire me.”

Then, I remember that feeling. I remember the first conversation I had where I felt like maybe it wasn’t me against the world. I’m pretty sure I rushed my professor’s office for help dissecting the conversation after I hung up. I remember the first editor who contacted me. I remember the first voicemail I got from an editor asking me to come for an in-person interview, and how I played it over and over and over again to be sure I hadn’t missed any details or clues. I remember how much fun it was to read the job ads and imagine myself in cities I’d never heard of, let alone been.

I was telling one of my friends, a May grad with a post-grad summer internship that ends next month, that I kind of miss the excitement that comes with looking for that first job. I mean, you can literally do anything. You can go anywhere. You have no roots, no history holding you back. You have nothing but a few clips from your college newspaper and summer internship, a cover letter you likely wrote at 3 a.m. and a resume you’ve scrutinized so many times that it seems foreign rather than familiar. All you have to go on is your wit and your passion, your charm and your references. All you have is your future ahead of you.

As for me, my future is underway. Tomorrow is the exact six month mark since I started here at the J&C. It’s pretty insane how quickly it passed.

Cleaning up your online reputation?

Friday, July 6th, 2007

I caught this post by Andy Dickinson about journalism students trying to clean up past indiscretions and have articles they wrote removed from their college paper sites. Apparently, as Bryan noted at Innovation in College Media, “more and more former students are attempting to get college media outlets to remove news items from their online archives.”

I’ve said before how thankful I am my high school newspaper wasn’t online when I was there. It is now, which makes sense but sucks for the students who in five years are going to wish they hadn’t been archived in Google. I had Web sites through middle and high school. But if a recruiter today stumbled upon the crap I wrote about back then, I’d surely never be considered. OK, they’d be able to tell the difference between an article in my newspaper today and one from high school. But the thing is, Google can’t.

I’m still annoyed by certain articles that pop up high in the Google search for my name today. One of the top hits is a list of articles from the Daily Kent Stater. (Fortunately, these are only from when we changed over platforms, so they’re the tailend of my collegiate journalism career, not my first forays into it. They’re also not from a period where I was on a regular beat, so it’s really scattered, but nothing I’d be entirely embarassed for someone to read.) There are articles I hate pop up when you search for me, the ones about May 4, Darfur, black squirrels, a hospital groundbreaking that I covered last summer, etc. I guess — I hope — the more articles I get under my belt, the quicker those will get nudged out.

But I’m not going to hire a company to make that happen. For one thing, I like to be able to look back at old stories and see how much I’ve grown and think how I would handle that story knowing what I know today. Often times even a few months can make a big difference in how I’d go about it. And the great thing about newspapers, and even more now with online, is that I can start over on a fresh story or topic tomorrow even if I didn’t nail the story today. Or I can come back from a different angle another time.

Bryan notes that the most common reason to want to clean up the record from college media outlets was to clean up blotter items of youthful indiscretions. I made a conscientious decision as editor of the Stater not to publish the blotter online for this reason. I was never in the blotter and could not have foreseen myself ever being in a situation where I would be (and in fact we had a discussion when a USS senator was arrested for a DUI that boiled down to the fact that were I to be arrested for a similar offense, as a campus leader I’d be held to the same standard, which would include a front-page article about the arrest). But kids will be kids, and I hated the idea that some underage drinking arrest would bar them from a job someday.

I’m not sure if they went ahead and ran the blotter online after I left. It would draw a lot of hits, surely. It was one of our most-read items in print. And I wouldn’t judge them for not.

The real question is going to be what happens when my generation gets into positions of power. We grew up being monitored by the Internet, or monitor ourselves and friends through it. But when it comes time for us to make the hiring decisions, will be more forgiving or will we be more diligent in our pursuits because we know the back roads of the net better than our bosses today? It’ll be interesting to see.

The not-so job hunting expert

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

Remember back in middle school and high school when there was still so much you had never done or tried. Remember how your friends who had done those things suddenly became your expert guide as you met each milestone. Dating, driving, etc.

I’m having this weird deja vu the past few weeks. Only this time, it seems, I’m ahead of the curve and everyone wants my advice.

This is the time when all the summer interns are nervously starting to count the weeks remaining not the weeks they’ve been here. As few as two weeks left or as long as a month or two. The ones who are on post-grad internships (as several of my friends are) and even the ones who are looking forward to the next internship (as is the case for others I know) are suddenly wondering where they will find themselves after their summer internship ends.

I’m not an expert on finding a job at all. At all. In fact, I spent much of my final semester of college just freaking out because I just knew I’d never land one in journalism.

Miraculously, I got some nibbles, scored a few interviews and actually did get a job. Because I already went through this ritual and successfully completed it, that suddenly makes me an expert. Or at least, everyone seems to think I know more than they do.

I kind of wish I’d had that “what’s it like” network when I was looking. Though, fortunately, I had the network of professors whose offices I frequented in search of another set of eyes to proof my resume or another opinion on which cover letter to use and where to apply.

I’ve had conversations with four different people over the past week about the best way to go about applying for jobs, finding job postings, copying & sending clips, picking clips, writing cover letters and more. I always start with the disclaimer that I really lucked out in the job search.

In the interest of helping others who want to know what it’s like to find a job, here’s a quick round-up of how my search went. Remember, I was a horrible job hunter, so luck surely played some part in it.

  • I didn’t have time to search for jobs or contact editors or put together beautiful clip packages. I was busy taking a course overload necessary to graduate early, editing my daily student newspaper and trying to maintain a semblance of a social life.
  • The packets that did get sent out (aside from some from the job fair, probably only a half-dozen were mailed out) were put together well after midnight on Sundays after I’d just finished putting the Stater to bed. None of the papers I actually interviewed with received those packets via mail. I think I only actually talked to one of the editors who got the packet on the phone. I got a “we received your application” back from another. The majority of my inquiries went unanswered, though I didn’t follow up on most because by the time I would have I already had some interviews lined up and had decided I would see what happened and if I didn’t have a job by New Years I’d start again with rigor.
  • The others were from an interview at a job fair, an e-mail inquiry or them getting my name and resume/clips online. I also interviewed with a few recruiters who came to Kent, though I didn’t slate myself for all of them though my professors said I should. One of those interviews was with a corporate recruiter whom I’d already been in contact.
  • At least two editors contacted my references before contacting me. (I know because the editors told me or the professors would find me in the Stater office and ask if I heard from X paper.) In a few instances, the editors knew one or more of my references through having worked with them in the past.
  • I kept my options open. I wanted a reporting or online reporting position, but looked at online producing and copy editing jobs in appealing locations as well. My location criteria was I would move anywhere that paid me enough to live. My varied experience was, I think, what made me stand out. The other thing, I’ve been told by the editors who interviewed and hired me, was my passion and excitement for this business and its future.
  • It all happened pretty quickly. One minute I’m taking my news design exam, the next I’m Googling the area code of a phone call to find out where the heck it was coming from to place what paper it could be. One week I’m wondering if the bowling alley would let me come back after graduation, the next I’m touring the Midwest in a suit.
  • I don’t think I was quite prepared enough for the intensity of the job interviews themselves. I think that’s the one thing nobody warned me about. You interview with just about every editor at the paper, and it’s like rapid fire one right after another, from office to office, conference room to conference room. By the third or fourth person, I was always left wondering, wtf just happened? And trying to keep my excitement up as I answered what I would have sworn was word-for-word the same exact question I had just answered for the last three. Luckily, I’m a naturally excited person especially when I’m passionate about something. They all also included lunch or breakfast or both with editors and/or reporters. You get about two bites in, so don’t forget to eat breakfast before you come.
  • Each interview included test stories and written tests on grammar/style/general knowledge. Two of the test stories included mandates to write something for online. One was a bogus crash where I was given the notes/release and had to craft a story. The other was a story about holiday travel that required me to go out and find real people, contact the airport, contact AAA, etc. That story would have been easy, and in fact I had the online update within 15 minutes of getting the assignment, but ran into time trouble after the reporters who took me to lunch took me to a place that took forever to seat and serve us. I had about 15 minutes after that to find the “real people” and get it written, this involved me practically running down main street. I think the editor was actually happy to see the unexpected pressure. When I told her what happened and how I handled it, she laughed and said it would have made a good reality show. As for the general knowledge, I didn’t know who the Indiana senators were and I guessed on the name of the Indianapolis NBA team (correctly, I looked it up immediately after I left). So you never know what random questions could pop up.
  • Since starting my job, I’ve received at least half a dozen e-mails or calls from editors looking for the right candidate for their positions. At least one contacted me again after my 90-day probation to check in.

And there, my friends, in one quick list is everything I know about job hunting based on my own fledgling experience. I hope it’s helpful. If it’s not and somehow you don’t already know, Joe Grimm’s ask the recruiter column is a godsend of awesome advice, as is the journalists community on LiveJournal.

As I have told my friends, there is no right way. The right way is the one that works, for you, for the editor, for the paper that actually has a suitable opening at the right time. Try every way and hope one of them sticks. That was pretty much my method.

Good luck!