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Don’t Just Sit There! Engage!
Plenty of insanely talented jerks never get anywhere despite their insane talent. Why? Because they're jerks!

Adopt a Role Model, Not a Mentor
I remember nights when he made me cry — unintentionally, I’m sure — and question my decision to enter this field. He poked, pushed and prodded me to do my best work. Always. No exceptions. No questions asked.

It’s the Reporting, Stupid!
“On rare occasions, editors left my copy unscathed. I could actually recognize my story when I picked up the paper the next morning. And that got me to wondering why.”

It’s About Your Audience, Stupid!
I got there about the same time as everyone else — and so did the newspaper's photographer. He went in one direction; I headed in the other. I asked questions, and so did he. We came to very different conclusions, and I'm ashamed to say I scoffed at his the night this story broke.

Working the Ladder
It's amazing how far a can of soda will get you.

Step Off That Ladder Every Now and Then
I learned some really important lessons from Ed Williams, my first editor out in the professional working world, but what you’re about to read ranks right at the top.

Speak a Second Lingo
I share all of this because I've seen firsthand how the effort to learn a language can help a journalist on the job. My editors have always been keenly aware of my Spanish skills — which I'm sure helped me land at least one job.

The Training Tithe
Life is filled with priorities. I'm not here to knock yours, but I will be the first to say that not making professional growth and development an important part of your career is a big, fat mistake.

See the Bigger Picture — and Your Place in It
“I was so nervous about finding a job. I didn't do my homework and research some of the areas in which I might work. Three days before I started my first job, the county voted to begin selling beer and wine. Yikes! I almost moved into a dry county.”

Evaluations and Critiques
I've had to get over myself in a big way since graduating from college. I always said I wanted my work critiqued — but I never admitted to anyone that I didn't want it criticized.

Get to Know Your Newsroom
By going to that session, I also learned more about advertising. Plenty of folks from the Trib's ad department were also in attendance. They don't need to know code either, but they do need to learn more about ad placement on a Web page — and they do need to know more about my reasons, as a journalist, for wanting to be careful about the hows and wheres those ads are posted online.

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Home > Generation J > Wish I'd Known Then...


Lesson No. 8
The Training Tithe

Ed Williams writes:

I didn't participate in any off-site professional training programs until I was at my third daily in my fifth year of reporting. In the early 1980s, I told myself that my first two newspapers weren't committed to staff training and professional development. Or, I told myself, they were too cheap to send me anywhere. I paid a price for my cynicism.

Ed Williams
Ed Williams
Then I spent the next 10 years making up for lost time. I went everywhere: state press association seminars, regional programs, univerity forums, the Poynter Institute.

In the mid-1990s, I became the newsroom training coordinator and managed a paltry training budget. I couldn't send everyone to every place they wanted to go, and I saw some our fine entry-level journalists telling themselves the same cynical things I told myself as a young reporter.

I wish someone had told me early on: I am responsible for my professional development. If my paper won't pay to train me, then I pay to train me. It's painless. Set aside $10 a week from the paycheck. In a few months, that tithe can easily cover fees and lodging for some strong training programs offered by state press associations, by SPJ, by NABJ, by VCU's new media center, by the Poynter Institute.

Taking ownership, making a personal investment pays off:

— First, you learn some stuff. No duh!
— Second, those training workshops are great for networking. Find your next job there.
— Third, you score major points in a job interview when editors learn you paid for your own training.
— Finally, it's a chip you can play with your editor when the next workshop comes along. The good faith you show today is almost always rewarded tomorrow.

My thoughts:

"...And I saw some of our fine entry-level journalists telling themselves the same cynical things ..." Ed was referring to me, I'm sure. (And others, too. I wasn't the only one bitching. At least I don't think I was.)

I know. I know. What is this all about? You're a student. You’re in your first, maybe your second, job. You hardly have two one-dollar bills to rub together, so what in the world am I doing suggesting that you put aside money for training? And training?! Isn't that what you're doing right now in school? In your first real jobs?!

Well, let me stick it to you straight: Life is filled with priorities. I'm not here to knock yours, but I will be the first to say that not making professional growth and development an important part of your career is a big, fat mistake.

I challenge each and every one of you to really think about what it is you are spending your money on. If you really want to go to a national SPJ convention, you could. But it might mean you buy fewer MP3s this year and not quite as many skim lattes or six-packs. I'm not saying, "Don't enjoy yourself." Just examine your priorities. Saying you're determined to succeed isn't going to cut it . You must act on your determination.

All right. So let's say you can't — absolutely can't — save even $5 a month right now. (I don't buy it. But OK. Whatever.) Make it your business to get that training fund started as soon as possible. Don’t wait. Don’t make excuses (because you will. I did.).

Fortunately, it didn't take me as long as it did Ed to learn to make training a priority. I'm very involved in SPJ on the local and national levels because I have learned so much by attending its various workshops and programs.

Don’t let your education stop once you graduate from college. And never let the walls within which you work dictate the professional levels to which you rise.

Another upside to getting connected to a journalism organization: Advocacy. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that journalists must be advocates for journalism. Showing up for work every day, breaking a big story every week and filing the occasional freedom-of-information request does not make you a stalwart of the First Amendment. Always do something more for journalism — for the First Amendment — than what it takes for you to collect your paycheck.

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Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center
3909 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789

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