Monday, July 28, 2008

Diary Of An Unemployed Young Journalist: An Open Letter To Entry-Level Journalism Jobs Everywhere

Dear entry-level jobs ("ELJ"),

Where have you been?

I've been looking everywhere, virtually since the day I got my bachelor's degree in journalism from a reputable university. But I haven't been able to find you -- not on my university jobs database, not on New York Times Company Careers, not on Dow Jones Careers, nor Hearst Publications, Conde Nast, Time Inc., Rodale, Bauer, Hachette, Bonnier, Village Voice Media, News Corp., New York Observer, Manhattan Media, Gawker Media, CBS, NBC, ABC, Folio Jobs,, Mediabistro Jobs, Ed2010 WhisperJobs, Monster, Careerbuilder -- even the smaller companies of publications like New York, Interview, Radar and so forth.

That's newspapers, magazines, broadcast and online.

I feel like I've looked everywhere for you, ELJ. But I can't find you.

I've certainly tried my best to catch your attention. I thought my bachelor's journalism degree in New York wasn't enough, so I went to the top journalism school in the country and got a master's degree in New York, too.

You know, they don't really make journalism degrees any higher than that, ELJ.

Along the way, I interned at one of the Top 10 newspapers in the U.S. and three national monthly magazines, all under big companies (some might call them the "Big 3" of publishing). Everybody I know said internships were the big way in, so I went and did five.

I'm pretty lucky to have gone to school in this town. Wouldn't you say, ELJ?

But where are you when I need you?

Since I'm not receiving any handouts from dear old Mom and Dad -- especially with regard to the price of grad school and the incredible price of rent in this city, the biggest and most expensive in the U.S. -- I've even done some freelancing, some for notable publications in this town. It used to be a fun side gig, but when I'm depending on that $400 check that comes every couple of months, that's no good, right?

After all, every young journalist needs clips, right?

And hey -- my writing made the cover of a small national monthly magazine three times this year -- did you see, ELJ?

If you did, I wish I knew. Because I can't seem to find you.

Be well-rounded, they said. Be web-savvy, they said. Be flexible, be cheery, and most of all, be professional. Everyone loves a hard worker.

Well, I practiced my hard news stories. Inverted pyramid, soundbite quotes and all that. I've never even had a correction run for one of my pieces.

Then I edited stories by other people. I tried my hand at science journalism, technology journalism, business journalism, arts and entertainment, fashion -- even religion reporting. I challenged myself to see if I could cover everything equally as well, be it short news pieces, briefs, or full-on Rolling Stone-style profile features.

I researched. I fact-checked. I copy edited. I even tried blogging, both for the snarky and staid.

Then I went and learned Photoshop and InDesign and Illustrator and Dreamweaver. I learned how to shoot and edit video and photos. I practiced how to make webpages -- I even set one up for myself. And -- get this -- I learned Adobe Flash this year. How cool is that?

I trained my eye on my resume -- cleaned it up, made it classy, cut the junk. I practiced writing cover letters. I networked -- introduced myself to people, showed them my website, LinkedIn with them.

If you Google me these days, it's a trove of love letters to you, ELJ.

Then, when the time came to work in this big town, center of technology and media and finance and basically everything, I applied like a madman. I started slow, to test the waters, but when time started passing, I quickened the pace.

Editorial assistant jobs, assistant editor jobs, news assistant jobs, beat reporter jobs, online editor jobs, multimedia producer jobs, administrative assistant jobs -- I went after them all. And why not? Everyone told me it'd be a lot easier to find you if I had more feathers in my cap.

You must be allergic to feathers, though, ELJ. I can't seem to find you.

I asked my friends for openings at their companies, only to hear that they might be fired soon because of the economy. I asked my mentors for openings at their companies, but most couldn't find anything. Romenesko keeps saying all the positions for senior staffers were being cut in lieu of openings for young upstarts like me. The new generation of do-it-all journalists. But every time I search for jobs, how come the only ones open are for "senior editor" or "deputy page one editor"?

And gee whiz, there are a lot of internships available. But I think five is where I draw the line, ELJ.

Besides that, I just see freelance gigs that guarantee a lot of wasted time for little reward, or a lot of jobs that require three years of experience. But see, that's what I'm looking for.

ELJ, I'm looking for you.

I even bought a snazzy navy suit for the occasion. Your receptionist, "informational interview," said I look nice and I'm superbly qualified, but she said she can't find you, either.

Must be the economy. Must be the time of year. But let me tell you -- if there's one thing I've got, ELJ, it's information. Now I just need to find you.

I'm getting worried now. Rent's due soon, and $900 doesn't sound "stabilized" when you're not making anything. Who am I kidding -- it sounds like a lot to you too, doesn't it, ELJ?

Everyone says I should move out of the city. But why? I made so many professional connections here. And if everyone's moving out, and those jobs elsewhere are disappearing, who's left anyway?

I'm worried, ELJ. I can't find you. Where are you?

An Unemployed Young Journalist


Anonymous said...

I am looking for a j-job right now, so I feel your pain. I've pretty much stopped looking on the East Coast, however. With a masters degree in journalism (from Columbia?), I'm sure you will be able to find a j-job somewhere. It may not be in New York, however. I know a girl, for example, who interned during college at the Hartford Courant, got a job at msnbc in Seattle, worked there for three years, then transfered to New York (where she is now).

I'm sure it will work out.

Anonymous said...

You're a pretty good writer. The job is closer than you think. Don't take your foot off the accelerator until you get it. Don't stop pumping the handle until the water comes. Get my drift? Once you've been in your ELJ for a while, chances are you will hate it any way, but I know, you just want to get there. You will. A lot of people are in NYC w/ education and no job--only the cream rises to the top. I searched for 4 months after getting my masters before finding a job I could live with. The only thing you can do is to keep aggresively networking, applying, and most importantly, writing. Crazy as it sounds, I believe in you.

Anonymous said...

I think I see the problem. You're applying to big newspapers either because you can't leave a city or don't want to, and you figure your degrees and big internships should land you at a major paper to start.

I recommend searching J-Jobs under the reporter category. There are many jobs available. Hopefully one of the smaller papers won't be thrown off by your additional degree, as they may not want to pay you more just because you have it.

Maybe you should consider teaching.

Anonymous said...

HIRING EDITOR: "Hmm, nice resume....a master's degree? To do birth notices and marriage licenses? Jesus Christ on a stick! Talk about overqualified. I need someone who won't need $60K a year for their student loans."

See the problem here? There's not that much to learn/know about journalism. Seriously. A Master's is overkill.

John Lichman said...

You should offer MSM editors your services is throwing eggs at their competitors.

Anonymous said...

Ditto last comment. The fact that advanced degrees in journalism exist, as Kramer once said, "is the biggest fraud perpetrated on the American public since one-hour Martinizing." Worse still, a master's degree in journalism -- unlike, say, one in business, language, etc. -- is completely useless outside of news. These diploma mills need to be re-purposed to some kind of technical communications bent, or shuttered. Although working in the business, I've seen M.S. from Columbia get higher pay, but the golden age for that joke has past. Good luck paying those loans!

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree with some of the previous posters -- you need to look outside NYC. I get that you don't want to leave, but you need to understand that as a young'un, you CAN leave. Unlike a lot of the recently laid-off 40somethings with spouses, kids, aging parents, mortgages, etc. It sounds like you've got great qualifications and a terrific work ethic -- apply outside NYC and you should get snapped up quickly. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

You are over-educated. My paper prefers entry-level journalists who have degrees in fields other than journalism, on the grounds that gives them broader interests. You should consider going back to college and getting a degree in something that will be useful in your life.

John Lichman said...

maybe i have to disagree with some of the anons here, but:
why should "We" (being those hunting for work or self-fulfillment in fields we strive to be in) leave NYC when we're already here?

Why leave when this is ultimately where we've been told to migrate to if we want to work?

I know the traditional route involves Andrew having to wait until he's 38 until he gets a desk and a fedora, but that clearly isn't the case anymore when people are scooped up from college and even brothels to be thrust into the major media spotlight.

Luckily, I know Union Square Trader Joe's Newsletter will be welcome to have Nusca as their editor. As long as I can fact-check it.

Chase Squires said...

The entry level stuff is out there, but it's not going to come to you, you've got to go to it ... no, it won't pay much, neither did my first gig in Greenwood, SC, but I only had that job for 7 months before moving on ... you have to get out there.

Good luck,

Here, from today .... these are just a few, notice one (Sheridan, Wyo, even SAYS no experience nec., if that's not ELJ, I don't know what is, and it's a gorgeous area)


Company: Odessa American
Position: Seeking reporters
Location: Odessa, Texas
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires: September 1, 2008
Job ID: 536730

Seeking talented, experienced reporters to cover business, police and general assignments. Excellent pay and benefits. The Odessa American is a daily paper in West Texas and serves an area of 250,000 people and is consistently a top award winner among Texas daily newspapers. Send resume and clips to Gene Powell:


Company: Lancaster Eagle-Gazette
Position: Wanted: A reporter who loves news
Location: Lancaster, Ohio
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires: September 1, 2008
Job ID: 957049

The Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, a Gannett newspaper, wants reporter who loves local news to join the Local Desk. This person must have strong writing and reporting skills and be able to write hard news as well as features about public safety, crime and the courts. The successful candidate will possess a can-do attitude, flexible and committed to learning and growing. A college degree required, journalism major preferred. Some night and weekend work is required. Proficient in AP style and grammar a must. The Eagle-Gazette is an aggressive multimedia operation where everyone is involved in maintaining and updating the Web site. Lancaster is about 25 miles south (or a 30-minute commute) of Columbus, the state capital. The Eagle-Gazette, circulation 15,000, serves Fairfield County in central Ohio. Send cover letter, work samples, resume and references to Antionette Taylor-Thomas, managing editor, 138 W. Chestnut St. Lancaster, Ohio, 43130 or via e-mail: No telephone calls.


Company: The Sheridan Press
Position: Great start
Location: Sheridan, Wyoming
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires: September 1, 2008
Job ID: 956811

The Sheridan (Wyo.) Press, a six-day-a-week afternoon newspaper, has a great opportunity for a journalist — some experience working at a daily newspaper would be great, but it is not required. Daily responsibilities are typing in obituaries and emergency services reports and working with our news editor on rewriting press releases about community events, weddings and anniversaries. Other responsibilities include gathering news and planning coverage for the Business page and working with city and county business leaders. The successful applicant will also work into the title and responsibility of special projects editor. Photography and pagination skills a plus. The Press offers a relocation stipend, competitive salary, health, dental, eye-care benefits and a profit-sharing plan — and Wyoming has no state income tax. If you want to join an energetic and professional staff on an award-winning newspaper in a thriving community, send resume and work samples to Patrick J. Murphy, managing editor, P.O. Box 2006, Sheridan, WY 82801, or e-mail:


Company: The Stevens Point Journal
Position: Reporter
Location: Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires: August 29, 2008
Job ID: 955533

The Stevens Point Journal, a Gannett daily newspaper in central Wisconsin, has an opening for a full time reporter to join the news staff. This position is responsible to provide multi-platform news coverage of local stories in an accurate and timely manner under the direction of the Managing Editor. The primary focus of this position will be on the University of Wisconsin – Steven Point. They will be required to coordinate the weekly Pointer Connect page which includes stories connected to the university submitted by staff and readers.

The process will involve collecting information, interviewing, writing stories and providing online updates. This requires the ability to handle multiple tasks and meet deadlines on a daily basis. We seek candidates with a demonstrated ability to design a story using AP style and grammar, some writing or free lance experience and a willingness to report on a variety of subjects.

Please send your cover letter, resume, references and writing samples to the Stevens Point Journal, Attn: Human Resources, 1200 Third Court, Stevens Point, WI 54481 - or email your application materials to

John Lichman said...

see. here's the other thing that annoys me--andrew's mainly going on the point that these jobs should be avaliable without insane requirements.

To bring glorious new media into this:
Gawker is currently looking for interns. One of the positions requires a 3-year minimum of reporting experience.

That's usually called an assistant editor at a paper or magazine and they're paid for their work. Not just name credit.

This is stemming from the same site that took a chance on a 20-year old NYU student who dropped-out to run Wonkette and Gawker Proper, busting his ass along the way. And it was entirely based off his conversations with Gawker Proper's then Editor.

(eh, Alex Pareene and Choire Sicha for those not obsessed with "tehzomgnewmedia!" like the rest of us freaks.)

This is what should be pissing us off: instead of established companies taking chances, they're forcing new students to the wolves for work, countless CL ads peddling pending pay and big experience.

Hoo-ray, amazing world of media!

Anonymous said...

This is directed to John Lichman:

NYC is home to some of the top publications in the world. The vast, vast majority of journalists will not start there, because it's meant to be the top of the top. Yes, some people will start in NYC, but most won't, and it's unrealistic not to apply for jobs outside of the city. It may seem like everyone is getting snapped up in the city, but it's just not true.

If the author is really hell-bent on staying in the city, she might be able to reverse commute to a paper in New Jersey.

Andrew said...

I have to stand up for advanced journalism degrees. Sure, it's not like getting a degree in medicine, or law, which require some mastery of a body of knowledge. But if you do j-school right, you're subjecting yourself to the highest possible standards every day and being edited and measured by professors and peers who are fine journalists or who will be. Most newsrooms simply are not set up to help young journalists develop skills and high standards the way the a good j-school can.

Do you need j-school? No, and I admire those many great journalists who didn't go to one and made something of themselves. Are some j-schools "diploma mills"? Probably. But so are some law and med schools.

For me and others I know, j-school was just the crucible I needed to test and develop my talents. Keep your sights and your standards high, you'll find something!

jason said...

It's time to leave New York. I'm serious. You can come back when the city wants you.

ML said...

I'm also unemployed -- after 15 years of experience, regional, state and national awards, blah blah blah. I know lots of other people who were pushed out of the business who were as good writers or better than I am.

I just interviewed for a job that is three-months long and they offered nearly 20 percent less than I made in my last contract (no benefits) job.

As Mom always said, life isn't fair.

John Lichman said...

If the author is really hell-bent on staying in the city, she might be able to reverse commute to a paper in New Jersey.

Reverse commute and a sex change?

I doubt most journalists can afford the latter.

At the same time, nothing against commuting. But the main point Andrew's getting at, IMO: these entry-level jobs aren't here anymore. And it's annoying when you're thrown an "internship" that would normally be a paid entry-level position.

Or maybe that's my take. Who knows.

Sara said...

Well crap. You sound 100% more qualified than I am despite my two years of out-of-town newspaper experience, yet you can't find a job in the city. My dreams die a little.

Still, I was always told that the best reporters start out in the small places, and move back to New York when they've "made it." There are so many young people with hustle, rich parents and more connections than you in New York (I have seen them on Gossip Girl). The great wide America calls out for some great reporter-to-be...

Anonymous said...

I tried to get an ELJ in New York during the Daily News strike. Impossible, unless I wanted to cross picket lines, which I did not.
I landed at a little paper in York, Pa. and was so happy...
Leaving the city is great advice. What about leaving the country? My second job was in Russia at an English language paper. After that, on to Chicago.
Look to Dubai, etc. Don't snub corporate or government communications, either.
Good luck.

Anonymous said...

At all 4 papers I've worked at I've met reporters with masters degrees. Not one of those people were as valued within the newsroom as those who (a) had specific expertise within a field, such as business or technology, (b) had exceptional talent at their craft, or (c) were bulldogs who would work through the night to get a job done, or relentlessly pursue a source, lead or idea, and never, ever give up.

If you're looking for a job in New York and not getting it, it's because you're not good enough yet. That might sting, but that's the market right now. You can try to wait it out in NY or look for work at a scrappy 30K circ paper in Podunk, Pa. I'd venture there are editors in NYC who spent time in Podunk and are better for it.

Anonymous said...

This is irrelevant to real life, I'm sorry. I graduated with a J-degree, bartended for a year (generally goofed off) then when I decided to use my degree the first place I applied I got a three week internship (paid) and then an offer for a full time position with my own carved out beat.

While working I got another ELJ offer two weeks later that I had to turn down.

The reason between you and I? I did what my teachers told me I had to do; start at a small town paper...

Listen to yourself: "I applied at the New York Times, etc." "WHAAHHH!!"

What about Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue while yer at it?

You've got to put in a teeny weeny bit of effort and humility to get where you want to go.

Two years at a small paper is the norm and I was being told that in the nineties when we WEREN'T in an "economic downturn".


Anonymous said...

"why should "We" (being those hunting for work or self-fulfillment in fields we strive to be in) leave NYC when we're already here?"

.. uhm, because there aren't a lot of starting-level jobs in NYC. It's called reality. Trying coping with it instead of blogging about it.

"Why leave when this is ultimately where we've been told to migrate to if we want to work?"
.. uhm, whoever would tell you to START a career in a major city? Young journalists trying to begin in Boston, Chicago, N.Y. etc are just showing ungodly arrogance. Not to mention unbelievable ignorance; how could anyone be remotely connected to this industry and really think that noobs are going to be welcomed in NYC? Damn, go into advertising or someplace where commonsense isn't valued.

Anonymous said...

"You know, they don't really make journalism degrees any higher than that, ELJ."

"Everyone says I should move out of the city. But why? I made so many professional connections here."

Ah, the whine of entitlement.

Anonymous said...

Oh, man. We go through this every year. Last year it was this dumb shit ( whining to Joe Grimm on Ask the Recruiter. And the economy was a damn sight better then than it is now. It's a shame those pricey master's programs don't give their students a course in reality, namely, that master's or not, you're still a rookie, and you gotta pay those pesky rookie dues. Good luck, Editorialiste. Your dreams of journalistic glory may wither and die, but your loan payments will live on for decades.

rknil said...

"Ah, the whine of entitlement."

It's about all young journos have to offer these days. They don't need more higher education; they need remedial training.

Also, Joe Grimm is a fossil who just took a buyout. His advice is as worthwhile as the empty pop bottle sitting next to me. Creepy 40- and 50somethings yearning for recent college grads should be laughed at and not heard from.

Anonymous said...

You are doing all the right things, getting the extra sheepskin, battling for national attention, blogging about your problems. So just continue to sit back in NYC, give out periodic updates on your progress, and it will come to you -- just as it has come to previous generations in whose shoes you are following.

Anonymous said...

C'mon, Joe Grimm's a good guy who helped a lot of kids get started in the business. And he didn't hesitate to tell them when they were aiming too high. It's a shame Editorialiste's profs didn't do the same.

Jim Thomsen said...

Here's what jumps out at me, a working newspaper professional who makes a good living in a part of the country I love:

1. You're overeducated. Getting that master's degree right out of the gate doesn't help your cause. Credible employers value real-world experience, not a heaping pile of academic credentials (no matter how prestigious the school).

2. There are few staff jobs these days. Most employers are shrinking FTE counts and are unwilling to shoulder even a portion of the escalating costs of health insurance and other benefits. Most people hired by major publishing companies these days are on contract, not on staff.

3. If you're not getting anywhere despite countless job interviews and "professional connections," consider the possibility that you may be seen as personally repellent. Maybe it's arrogance. Maybe it's the way you dress or groom yourself. Maybe you are unable to edit your thoughts in a conversation and wind up saying obnoxious things.

4. Many more journalists are making their livings these days through freelance work. It can be done. If you decide it can't be, then you need to modify your expenses and your standard of living. (Racking up tens of thousands of dollars in student-loan debt, if that's what you did, probably wasn't smart, either.)

5. What's wrong with taking your credentials out of town for 2-3 years, kicking ass in a small town, and coming back to NYC with renewed energy and attitude?

6. There are a lot of people out there like you, based on other blogs and news accounts I've read. You're likely competing against a glutted hiring pool.

I wish you luck ... but I don't think your luck will change until you realize that it's you that needs to change, not the cold cruel world.

Those of us who have good jobs know this. We've paid our dues, endured lean times, waited out bad situations ... and learned some diplomacy and savvy along the way.

Claudia R said...

Dear Tina, your blog post takes me back to 1978, when I was desperately seeking a job in journalism. Fresh out of the Master's program at UC Berkeley, I'd gotten lots of encouragement from the likes of the LATimes, but couldn't land that first job. It worked out eventually (Chicago Sun-Times) but I honestly was at the point of jumping out of my 14th floor window (my husband was worried.) I wish you well, as you are obviously talented, determined and hard-working. Claudia Ricci (I teach at SUNY in Journalism and English)

Alyson Hoge said...

We're hiring copy editors, page designers and reporters in Little Rock at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The owner, Walter E. Hussman Jr., is E&P's Publisher of the Year. Look us up!

Anonymous said...

From a working reporter - don't buy the "not good enough" racket. That's just a line they give you to keep you down and buying into the high-school politics of this profession.

Do buy into the "bulldog" routine. Hustle beats out talent in this business at least 70% of the time. The other 30% is connections.

The smalltown route can go either way. I did it, it worked out, but not the way i exactly had in mind. And some people get marooned there. That said, Sheridan Wyoming would make you an exotic when you came back, and exotics sometimes have an edge.

Stay published while you're looking, even low-paying freelance. Technical expertise in something (business, health care, music, whatever) helps your case too.

Good luck.

Claudia R said...

This takes me back to 1978 when I was desperate for my ELJ. I was fresh out of UC Berkeley Master of Journalism program, and had received lots of encouragement from the likes of the LA Times; still, it took what seemed like forever. I finally ended up in Chicago, at the Sun-Times, but I'm thinking about the day(s) when I was so desperate I was tempted to jump out of the 14th floor window of my apartment. Good luck to you Tina, you are obviously talented and determined, deserving, and understandably, frustrated! The current state of affairs in newspapering has made it even harder today than it was in 1978! Claudia Ricci, Ph.D. (I teach journalism and English at SUNY Albany.)

Anonymous said...

You didn't mention Gannett. They'll hire anybody. Try there. It sucks, but if you're any good, you'll survive and move on to better things.

Anonymous said...

"What's wrong with taking your credentials out of town for 2-3 years, kicking ass in a small town, and coming back to NYC with renewed energy and attitude?"

because realistically, when it comes down to it, there's more to life than your job, and small towns suck.

Ryan from D.C. said...

I went to graduate school in NYC as well (the OTHER school just about a hundred blocks south of the big C) and don't think it was a waste at all. I got some great internships and had my work edited by some amazing writes from the New York Times, New York and other publications I admire. However I did not go to grad school because I thought it would get be a better job. I did it because I wanted to learn from a few writers who happened to be teaching there and I wanted to spend a year and a half in New York City. That was about 3 years ago.

That said, I pretty much knew once grad school was over that I'd have to move out of the city to find a sustainable job. I got a job at a community weekly in New Jersey and it was awful, but it paid the bills and I honed my chops on the most basic hard news you could find. Then I got a job covering crime for a very large chain of weeklies outside of D.C. in Maryland, owned by a prominent newspaper in the area. I spent a year there and continue to sharpen my skills.

Now I cover green technology for an insider-type daily paper in D.C.

I've worked my ass off AND I also went to grad school (I think people forget sometimes that you can go to great and ALSO be a hard worker). I may not be at the New Yorker yet (pipe dream), but I'm 26 and I'm climbing my way up one rung at a time.

My advice. Bite the bullet, leave New York and work for a small town or mid-sized daily somewhere. A few years of grunt work looks amazing on a resume. Editors respect that you are willing to learn the craft in the trenches as well as in the classroom.

What do I know, though? I'm only able to pay the bills (and student loans) and enjoy a pretty nice journalism job in our nation's capital.

nnemshneb said...

I'm 20 years into my career, working now for a decent paper at the top of the food chain with tons of awards. But at the onset in 1987 I EXPECTED to be run through a gauntlet of humiliations and low pay. That's your problem. You feel ENTITLED. That's not how the biz works. I started out hustling at 20,000 circ papers and pushed and shoved my way to bigger ones. I finally made it to a Top 10 paper only by having to get shot at and bombed for three years of covering wars abroad - just to get clips I could show a Top 10 paper. When I read whines like this, it just makes me want to throw up. Go to the Odessa Texas paper and learn how to be a man.

Kristen said...

I'm sorry to say that many young journalists (no matter how educated or talented) usually have to start in a smaller market and work up. It's great that you have connections and do freelance work, but really look to other areas of the country. It seems the title of your post to "journalism jobs everywhere" isn't quite accurate. You mean jobs in New York, not everywhere. There's your problem.

Anonymous said...

Freelancing is a great way to start.

Ryan in D.C. said...

Anonymous said...

"Freelancing is a great way to start."

Did you even read the post?

"I've even done some freelancing, some for notable publications in this town. It used to be a fun side gig, but when I'm depending on that $400 check that comes every couple of months, that's no good, right?

After all, every young journalist needs clips, right?

And hey -- my writing made the cover of a small national monthly magazine three times this year -- did you see, ELJ?"

Anonymous said...

Whoever said; "because realistically, when it comes down to it, there's more to life than your job, and small towns suck..." is a dumbass, I'm sorry.

You can write on bathroom walls all day if you want to, but what this blog is about is trying to MAKE MONEY at writing.

And if that's what you care about, which I'd say most people who aren't hipsters "living on the streets" off their parent's dime, do care about, then you need to think about your job.

Especially when you've got grad school loans to pay.

I'm from the same generation, we all grew up thinking we'd be rock stars, but face it, you've got to pay your dues before your are FORTUNATE enough to have a great job in NYC.

The writers who are there earned it. In the trenches.

Big papers want those of us who suffered for our art and craft, not paid for it.

And yes, I left a big, cultural city (Austin, Texas) for a 30K circ. paper way out in the piney woods far away from every friend I'd ever grown up with.

And like someone posted earlier, it made me a far better person than I ever was sitting in my journalism classes in College or High School...

Jim Thomsen said...

Actually, small towns don't suck.

Many have social vibrancy and cultural richness that New York City can't touch.

Besides that, small towns challenge you to make the best of your surroundings, to extend yourself, to stretch, to adapt and to learn new things and get to know whole different kinds of people. People who have put in time in small towns (and, really, I'm talking about any city that isn't in the Top 25 in U.S. population) find themselves richer in character and perspective for the experience.

Hang your insular, vacuum-sealed hubris on the shelf and go into the real world for a while. You'll be a much better person — and journalist — for the experience.

And who knows ... maybe you'll find that being part of the preening, pretentious world of New York publishing isn't the only worthy dream out there.

Anonymous said...

Have you looked at trade publications? They're not glitzy, and the pay stinks, but you'll have clips galore in short order. What's more, you'll get a a really deep dive into a subject and gain some real expertise. That's a tough thing for a journalist to do, especially one who studied only journalism in school.

When I started in journalism--in New York, because I'm from here--J school was for rich kids or for people who had worked a while and wanted to raise their game. Don't expect the degree to get you much, if it hasn't already gotten you the job you want. You just have to grab any job you can find and work your butt off. And if you can't get a job in journalism, for goodness sake, get another job and keep freelancing at night. Everybody does it. Don't be too proud to succeed.

Jim Thomsen said...

One thing about advanced degrees:

You get them for a specific purpose — usually, to prepare for a specific kind of management track or to go into teaching. I think getting such a degree just to front-load your resume when you're short of actual real-world experience is a poor strategy. Because I don't think it gives you much of an advantage in hiring.

I've been a hiring manager before. I'll say this: If I had a job opening and two resumes on my desk — one from somebody with bachelor's and master's degrees from Columbia, and one from somebody with a B.A. from Jerkwater State U, I'd muse on that for a moment before saying: "OK, let's see the clips." I'm interested in practical, pragmatic, hit-the-ground-running skills sets, not raw talents with more theoretic knowledge than work experience.

If anything, the advanced degree might be a drawback. I'd be concerned that you're just looking for a bullet point on your resume before bolting back to the Big Apple, whereas I'd prefer to hire somebody who I perceive is open to growing with us.

And the degrees would make not a whit of difference in pay. There's very little wiggle room in newsroom budgets these days. If I'm offering, say, $13.50 an hour to Candidate B, I'm offering the same to Candidate A. A master's degree does not translate to a higher wage. I can't see how it would for anyone just breaking in to the business.

rknil said...

"C'mon, Joe Grimm's a good guy who helped a lot of kids get started in the business. And he didn't hesitate to tell them when they were aiming too high. It's a shame Editorialiste's profs didn't do the same."

Thanks for posting, Joe. Good to see you had the guts to put a name behind the post. (eyes rolling)

I can just imagine Grimm continuing to visit campuses even though he's no longer associated with a newspaper. The paper that just bought him out has been plummeting in circulation and credibility for years. (Exhibit A: Mitch Albom's Arch Madness.) What excuse does someone give for offering advice after being bought out at the Free Mess?

Anonymous said...

Get out of Dodge. There are plenty of other jobs. Blah, blah, blah. I'm essentially repeating what 90 percent of the posts have already said.

I moved from South Florida and took a job in Alabama ... Was it my dream place to live? Nope. Do I have a great editor position now thanks to that first job in the middle of nowhere? Yup.

JCH said...

This industry sucks, plain and simple. Get into a different field and freelance as a hobby.

Anonymous said...

I too am looking for a full-time J-Job in the Chicago area. I have BA in Communications and a Masters in Journalism as well. I feel your pain. I have been looking for a year and still no luck. However, I have been looking for communications jobs and not journalism jobs (I did that for 3 years and want to move on from the newspapers).
I have gotten so fed up with the job hunt and rude human resources people I have decided to open my own communication consulting firm. My advice-never give up looking, and think outside the box.

Ryan in DC said...

Also, don't think a "small town" means its like Deliverance. There are plenty of small town newspapers that are an hour or less from a major city.

rknil said...

"Also, don't think a "small town" means its like Deliverance."

They should remake Deliverance, only with young journos on the canoe.

That would be an instant classic. "Who are those people on the shore who keep following us? Let's send them a Twitter post!"

The critical part would have to change, though, as today's young journos are anxious to get, um, Beattyed by today's newspapers. Instead of shooting anyone with an arrow, they'd run forward and make friends. They're gonna save journalism!

supparappa said...

A master's degree in journalism is completely unneeded. It's not wise to dig a massive debt hole when publications offer little or no salary premium for advanced degrees. I've never had an employer express much interest in what I studied at school. Mostly, they've wanted to see my last few stories and if I could write. My only academic regret is not becoming more proficient at a foreign language, as multilingual skills are invaluable as a journalist, since publications would like to avoid employing both a translator and a writer.

Lisa R. said...

Try getting an MFA degree (for artistic reasons, unrelated to delusions about earning power).
Then, when you apply for any kind of media or publishing or writing gig ('cause it sounds interesting, cause you need to put braces on a kid's teeth, cause you need to buy groceries while the book comes together, if ever) then you are not only "overqualified," but "too literary" for the real world too.

Hannah said...

Don't leave New York! There are NO jobs outside of New York! And don't go back to school again, please!

-> Have you subscribed to the Gorkana job listings? They've had a lot of ELJs listed recently at the AP.

-> Shoot for websites and newswires. They are the only people hiring these days.

-> Network with web editors; at most publications, the website and print pub are pretty separate, so you won't get anywhere networking with the print side.

-> The problem with magazine internships is that magazines aren't actually hiring. And websites aren't all that interested in hiring someone who has experience spending a month to write a story. Play up any beat reporting or daily experience.

-> Consider Long Island or New Jersey or Westchester -- the commute will be a bummer, but you'll be able to transition to a NYC job later.

Anonymous said...

Recruiter/trainer of 15 years here who just left a large media conference in Chicago. Yes, it's "bad" out there. But, people are landing jobs. Newspapers are bleeding people now. But, their websites are growing and getting the funding, not the traditional newsrooms. Acquire skills for today's and tomorrow's environment and you will land a job.
Also, there are jobs NOT on the coasts. There are two Columbia and one Brown grad at a public radio station in Wyoming, working, on the air as reporters with a News Director who is actually serving as their manager and coach. He knows they are not going to retire there, but that hasn't stopped him from luring "coastals" to his newsroom. Nor did it keep them from going there.
I have little sympathy for people who complain about not finding a job but won't leave the coasts.

Doug Mitchell

Anonymous said...

Um, "online editor" is not an entry-level job. At least not at my company, and not at any company that's serious about news on the Web.

The Editorialiste said...

The Editorialiste responds:

Responding To Romenesko: Thoughts On Your Comments

Anonymous said...

Could this entry be more pretentious? I mean come on! Where do you come off thinking that because you attended "reputable" schools and worked five internships that you should be guaranteed a position within months of graduating? We all have three to five internships, and a lot of us are from "reputable" J-schools. There are hundreds of recent grads embarking on this city who are equally competing with you for the same jobs. It all boils down to who you know. And once you know someone, it's how you interact with them...and perhaps that's where you're going wrong. Take a slice of humble pie, zip it about your uppity education, and realize things just don't get handed to you.

Also, according to AP Style, "webpage" should be "Web page."

Anonymous said...

Couple of comments:

There's still hope for you. While the way I started out in NY 25 years ago is no longer an option (I was a copy boy), there are any number of publications within a public transit commute. But be careful not to take a job where you'll be miserable. I was so desperate after I graduated from college that, after a six month search, I took a low-paying job at a trade publication. The advantage was that I was writing 8 to 10 stories a week. The disadvantage was that the owners wanted me to be an industry shill, and I hated that. Yes, I should have expected that and taken that into account before I took the job, but desperation can make you do crazy things.

My only other piece of advice is to make sure you get to know people. You can spend a few hours a day adjusting your resume and searching online for a job, but make sure you get out and meet working journalists as much as possible. A face is much easier to remember than just another resume among thousands. Check for industty mixers. Ask for tours of newsrooms, even if there are no openings. Invite friends in the business to lunch (and make them pay -- they're working!). Anything you can do to make yourself stand out above the crowd. I can't guarantee it will land you a job, but it can't hurt.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

You don't need to have gone to school in New York, nor do you need to have had a big-ticket internship to land a solid job. I've talked to hiring managers who say that despite journalists the country over looking for jobs, he can't seem to get a decent applicant. And this is a man at a solid, good newspaper that is not experiencing the woes of the industry the way other papers are.

You have to be willing to pay some dues. That may mean working a job you may not like, such as copy editor. It also may mean living in Sedalia, Mo. You need to do it, though, to get the real-world experience papers want. Those requisite "three years of experience." I can't stress enough the value of working for a small paper. We who have are valuable because we've had our hands in all parts of the newspaper operation. Knowing (and often having done) everyone else's job makes us better at ours. You'll be far more marketable for it. You may even find you like hyperlocal, community journalism.

If you're good, the rewards will come. They're not going to come just because you interned here or got a master's from there.

Anonymous said...

I'm a recent grad with an entry-level job that fits your ideal. I've read your blog before (I think first directed there from IvyGate) and just looked at your personal Web page. Honestly, I see a few problems.

I'm not going to harp on the fact that you went to J-school straight out of college, especially after majoring in journalism. You know all the criticisms of journalism degrees and obviously don't –– and didn't –– care. If your outside-the-classroom experience was better, I think you'd at least be getting interviews if not jobs. (Have you had any interviews since kicking off your full-time job search?) Let's look at your resume.

College newspaper: Could be a great asset if you were one of the top few editors on the masthead. "News editor" isn't a title that I see on the current WSN staff list and I have no sense of what your responsibilities were. Experience at a decent college daily can be a great asset, one that, I can attest, is worth more than a J-school degree. But that's in the past.

Internships: OK, so you've had a lot, but none seem too substantive. Maybe it's just how you describe (or don't describe) them on your resume, but nothing appears to be more than average. You think you're alright on this front because up against candidates who have done a similar number of internships (or, as in my case, a few less), right? Sure. But I've gotten 30+ bylines in each of my summer internships. You seem to have mostly done grunt work. Though my job involves a lot of administrative functions, the editors who hired me were thinking about longer-term potential within the newsroom, something that doesn't really come across in your experience.

Now: To put it frankly, when any straight-laced HR person or editor visits your personal site or this blog, he or she will probably be more repelled than drawn to you. You come off as snarky, holier-than-thou and supercilious. All things that any smart boss would want in an underling, right?

I'm starting to fall asleep, exhausted from my entry-level journalism job, so I'm going to end this comment abruptly. I apologize for that and for my anonymity, but I'm not dumb enough to do what you do (read previous paragraph). If you respond to my comment, I'll comment back.

Cheers and good luck. What's the backup career/grad school plan?

Sam Sukaton said...


Howdy! It's my first time here, and I really like your work. I don't mean to be a bother, but I thought (what with all the "entitled" remarks from older and wiser heads) you might like feed back from the aspiring, idealistic young.

With all due respect, survey of the comments strongly recommends that you spend some time as a voice crying in the wilderness, proclaiming the fires, treebound cats, library functions, and city council meetings in Podunk and Dubuque.

That being said, you're a very good writer, and I'm sure that you'll be recalled from exile soon, as long as you're willing to grin and bear it.

What's your specialty, by the way? (Specificially, what do you LIKE reporting about, aside from reporting on reporting) If you go off into exile from the Apple and maybe charm an editor into letting you write a column in that field in the paper you do your time in, I'm sure that it'll also keep you sharp for the time you choose to go back.

I apologize if I seem cold, like some of the other comments.

I'm a little (well, a LOT) younger than you, but that's my game plan right now:

1. Declare a niche--I'm a religion major, with possible double or triple with philosophy and history. No comm, journalism, or English on this end.

2. Suffer the indignity of exile--I'm blogging biweekly for interfaith events at UCLA--it's miles from the Daily Bruin, and light years from the likes of Cathleen Falsani, Ari Goldman, or even my church's in-house world magazine, the Adventist Review. But if the Bruin will take me, I'll repeat the cycle until I DO end up with a major religious publication. If not, I'll throw a line somewhere else--a blog, maybe, freelancing for the big guns.

3. Bite down, bite hard, and hold on. Something will eventually give, somewhere. It may not be New York, but there's no shame in working in Chicago, LA, SF, get the picture.

I won't go so far as to say you're entitled, nor will I use the language I see in the comment above mine, but I do think you're aiming wrong. Not too high or too low. Just...incorrectly.

Hope things work out, though!



The Editorialiste said...


Thanks for your heartfelt comment. To answer:

1) I do have a specialty, and that's new media. If you mean as a beat, then no -- I've covered stories of all flavors before. While I understand the "branding" angle to your suggestion, I think that kind of versatility is an asset at the entry level.

2) I must say that "exile" isn't insufferable if one can pay one's monthly bills. That's primarily the problem!

As a side note -- Ari Goldman is a former professor of mine, for you guessed it, religion reporting. Good luck on your quest -- it's a small club to break into.

Thanks for your comments and best wishes,
The Ed.

Anonymous said...

Become a minority

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Anonymous said...

You are doing all the right things, getting the extra sheepskin, battling for national attention, blogging about your problems.