Career Advice for Journalists
  • How to Get a Job as a Journalist
  • Becoming a Freelance Journalist
  • Writing for News Radio
  • What Newspapers Pay Writers

    Career Articles
    Effective Résumés
    Negotiating Job Offers
    Copy Aide: A Great Way to Break in With a Large Newspaper
    Newspaper Clips: How Many Should You Include in Your Application?
    How to Become a Copy Editor
    Interviewing for a Newspaper or TV Reporting Job
    Top 8 Ways for Broadcasters to Sound Natural Reading From a Script
    Do You Need a Graduate Degree in Journalism?
    Freelance Writing: 10 Tips to Keep in Mind
    What an Editor of a Small Daily Looks for in a Co-worker

    Effective Résumés
    By Joe Grimm, Recruiting and Development Editor, Detroit Free Press

    When it comes to selling yourself on paper, you will find that newspaper editors are tough customers. After all, they put information on paper every day. There are no bonus points for correct spelling, punctuation or grammar. Those are givens. A single error can consign your résumé to the circular file. Edit your work, proofread the final copy and then double-check everything. Twice. Have someone else go over it. Make sure the editor is NOT the first person to see the finished product.

    Understand the purpose of a résumé. It is not intended to get you a job. It is meant to tell the prospective employer enough about you so that they'll look at your work samples or call you in for an interview. Use the interview, tests, tryouts and other activities to land the job. In a business where word economy is valued, one-page résumés are twice as effective as two-page résumés. Even editors with 20 years and several papers behind them limit their résumés to one page. You're certainly free to go over that, but it's not very smart -- especially when your experience, in comparison to the editor's -- is modest.

    What Comes After Name, Address and Phone Number?
    Stating your career objective can help, but only if it matches the opening. An incompatible career objective can eliminate you from consideration. It's also OK to omit this. Put education or experience next, depending on which is more relevant to the job you're trying to get. If all of your work has been outside of journalism, but you have a degree in it, lead with the degree and details about your coursework. If you're completing a non-journalism degree and have two internships at newspaper, list the internships first. Chronological order is less important than relevance.

    Go Beyond Simple Job Titles
    Describe your jobs. Don't say you were a reporter. Say you were a reporter who covered a school district, two police departments and the local court and that you wrote a Sunday column. Mention the more complicated, difficult or humorous accomplishments you had in those jobs. These accomplishments distinguish your résumé from others, tell the newspaper something about your interests and abilities and could open the door to an interview.

    Use a Clean and Simple Design
    Be bold if you can, but not flashy. I have seen cartoon résumés, résumés with little basketballs on them and résumés made to look like front pages. Gimmicks can suggest a lack of experience or sophistication and do not give you any advantage over other applicants. As more and more companies scan résumés for databases, you may want to consider how to make a résumé that scans cleanly.

    What About Non-Journalism Jobs?
    If you have a short employment history, you certainly may include jobs that are not journalism-related. These help demonstrate that you have worked for others, know how to toil for a living, show up on time and generally be responsible. Stress areas that are most similar to newspapering: writing, working with the public, juggling tasks.

    What else should I include?
    Second languages (but they better be more than the obligatory school minimum), awards, scholarships, extracurricular activities that demonstrate leadership and personal achievements -- if they demonstrate relevant qualities such as resourcefulness, tenacity or responsibility. In one case, I was impressed that, while carrying a full load of classes, a student also was a full-time, caregiver for an elderly neighbor.

    What About References?
    Before you list anyone as a reference, make sure it's OK with them. Ask whether they can give you a good word. (Once, I called a reference, and the person said, "He listed me? That was a mistake." The candidate's chances stopped there.) If your résumé is getting crowded for one page, you can use a second sheet just for references. I don't think there's any need to say, "References available upon request." I assume so.

    Omit Personal Information.
    It is not relevant whether you are married or single, old or young, a smoker-or a non-smoker. Don't include those facts. It can mark you as lacking the sophistication to know what's relevant and what isn't. My curiosity is piqued when someone's résumé carries a list of places visited or lived in. Hobbies can intrigue me, too, but they turn others down cold. Generally, the more relevant it is to the job, the safer you are using it. Being accomplished at a musical instrument, for example, implies precision, discipline and practice. Saying that you have a passion for coffees or that you bake bread may turn some people off.

    This article was reprinted with permission from the JobsPage. To read more about career development, go to

    Content © copyright 2000, Detroit Free Press. All rights reserved.

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    Negotiating Salary Offers
    By Joe Grimm, Recruiting and Development Editor, Detroit Free Press

    If you want to negotiate the best deal for yourself going into a job, do as I say, not as I do.

    When the Free Press asked me whether I wanted a job, I immediately yelled, "Yes!"

    Not very cool, I know.

    And I quickly slammed any door I had for negotiating. Fortunately, I was treated pretty well anyway. Now, I tell people (even people I make offers to) not to accept instantly.

    A little about the dynamics of hiring: Between the time when a company offers you a job and you accept, you have leverage.

    Inside the company, a bunch of people have met and decided that you are the person, out of a handful of candidates, whom they want to hire. The person who makes the call is expected to get your acceptance. They do not want to reconvene, go to the next candidate or re-ignite their search.

    Often, the company has room to improve its offer.

    When you get an offer from a place where you'd like to work, be effusive with your thanks. (I love it when people get excited about a job offer. It's one of the big thrills of our job and gets people started off on the right foot.)

    Be excited, but don't commit on the spot. Tell the employer you'd like some time to think it over. That's only reasonable. But what's a reasonable amount of time? That's debatable. Overnight at the bare minimum. A couple of days is reasonable. More than a week might make it seem as though you're playing one offer against others, or aren't very interested.

    When they make the offer, get the particulars. How much will they pay? When do they want you to start? What are the specifics of the job? What about vacation pay and insurance? (These are questions you may have wondered about, but declined to get specific about during the interview process.) How about moving expenses? Training opportunities? When will you be up for a salary review?

    The Money.
    The key question, of course, usually is how much you'll earn. When will they review your salary? Typically, that happens after a year. Can they make it six months? This could mean a more immediate raise, not just in the first year, but subsequent years' raises will come faster, too. This is especially good to negotiate for if you and the company agree that the wage rate isn't as high as would seem appropriate for someone with your skills, and you're both willing to bank on your ability to prove yourself.

    Experience Level.
    A key question is to ask what experience level they're crediting to you. Especially in the first five years of a career, salary and paid vacation may be structured around how much experience you have. How are they counting the three internships you had? Some will count them, some won't and some are negotiable. You want to get that number up as high as you can.

    How much vacation will you get, and when will you get it? Some places don't allow you to take vacation until the calendar year after the year in which it was earned. That means, that if you start in February, you won't get vacation until the next year. You could be looking at a year or more without a break. Ask whether you can take some in the current year.

    Vacations tend to be earned on a pro-rated basis for the first year -- so many days off for so many days worked -- and in lumps of two, three or four weeks in the second year and beyond. The number of weeks depends on your experience. If vacation time is important to you, find out whether you can get to that three- or four-week level a year earlier.

    Moving Expenses.
    How will the company handle your move? Will they pay "all reasonable costs"? Does that include your piano? Your pets? Your car? Will they set you up with house or apartment hunting help? Will they pay for the visit out to look? If it looks like their moving policy won't cover the expenses from your move, can they give you a lump sum (some call it a signing bonus) to make up the difference?

    Training Opportunities.
    Few people negotiate development opportunities, but this is an option, too. Ask what and how you'll be learning skills for your new job, especially if it's something new for you. What form will on-the-job training take? Will you have a mentor? Periodic progress reports?

    Even the start date is negotiable. They may want you right away, but you haven't had a week off in years. Maybe you want to blow that week into your transition time so you can relax, get ready and celebrate your new job.

    Get It In Writing.
    Now that you know what might be negotiable, decide what you really need. Reasonable people don't negotiate everything. Go for your top-priority items. The way you handle negotiations will affect the way you begin your job. You want to be smart and ready to work with your new employers, not pushy and demanding.

    Finally, ask them to put in an offer letter. This is a polite way to ask for it all in writing. This should not be taken as a sign of mistrust, but as a sign that you're thorough, above board and business like. It's a reasonable request. Don't then be surprised if they ask you to sign off on your acceptance, too.

    This article was reprinted with permission from the JobsPage. To read more about career development, go to

    Content © copyright 2000, Detroit Free Press. All rights reserved.

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    Copy Aide -- A Great Way to Break in With a Large Newspaper

    By Dan Rohn, Founder,

    I didn't have much newspaper experience after graduating from college. But I got my foot in the door at The Washington Post as a part-time copy aide. Copy aides are essentially entry-level newsroom assistants. They deliver press releases, photo copy, sort mail, answer phones and assist reporters and editors. It's not a glamorous job, but it puts you close to the action and gives you a comprehensive look of how a newsroom operates. But probably the most important aspect of being a copy aide is the opportunity to get articles published. Copy aides then use these "clips" to apply for reporting jobs at other papers. Some copy aides have even landed a job as a full-time reporter at the paper they work for. Most medium to large papers have a staff of copy aides. Check with the paper you want to work for to see if they have any openings.

    Some Tips for Copy Aides:

    1. Use Your Time Wisely: If your goal is to become a full-time reporter, use your spare time to research and write stories. Many copy aides work part-time to give themselves extra time to freelance for their papers. I spent my lunch hour and after-work hours researching story ideas and conducting interviews.

    2. Create Your Own Opportunities: Think of stories that haven't been covered or angles that haven't been pursued, and pitch them to an editor. In my third month as a copy aide, I proposed a new column to the business editor that a competitor of The Washington Post was running. A month later, I was writing short stories about small businesses in the Washington, D.C. area for a column called "New Incorporations."

    3. Find a Mentor: Get a reporter or editor to help you polish your stories. Before I turned in any story, I would have a reporter friend look over my work and try to poke holes in it.

    4. Impress Your Superiors: Make sure all your writing assignments are well-researched, free of errors and turned in on time. The easier you make an editor's job, the more likely he/she will want to work with you on another story. That editor could serve as an important reference when you look for a full-time reporting job.

    5. Don't Stay Too Long: If you've already graduated from college and you've been working as a copy aide for more than a year, it might be a good time to move on. Take the clips you've accumulated and shop them around for a job elsewhere.

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    Newspaper Clips: How Many Should You Include in Your Application?

    While a strong cover letter and resume will get your application noticed, your clips can help you get an interview, and ultimately, a job.

    Here are some helpful hints:

  • Submit 6 to 10 of your best clips. Include leads with varying styles.
  • Your clips should reflect a range of your ability. For example, they may include an investigative piece, a story you broke, or a human-interest story.
  • Select clips that are relevant to the job you're applying for. If you're looking to cover crime, you should include stories that show your resourcefulness and ability to ferret out key details.
  • Make sure your clips are dated, well-organized and easy-to-read. Submit clear photocopies on 8 1/2 by 11 paper. Don't try to impress an employer by putting your clips in a leather bound case.
  • Make sure your clips were written within the past year.

    You may also want to highlight one or two clips in your cover letter, explaining, for example, how you beat the competition or how a story unfolded.

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  • How to Become a Copy Editor

    By Bill Walsh, The Washington Post

    Um, are you sure you want to do this? Copy editing isn't nearly as great a career as one might be led to believe. Then again, I find it hard to imagine doing anything else. If you think you might feel the same way (and you like the idea of working from 3 till midnight), read on.

    Three things to get you started:

  • Get an Internship. If you're just starting college (or still in college mode, no matter what your age) and you want to be a copy editor, make "internship" your mantra. If the place that hires you as an intern likes you, that place will hire you full time. If the fit isn't quite so nice, you'll have invaluable experience and an invaluable addition to your resume.

  • Start Small. Copy editors are in high demand, so if you go far enough down the food chain you might find a paper that isn't exactly inundated with copy-editor applicants, and you might persuade the people there to give you a test or a tryout based on your eagerness. Memorize the AP stylebook and a good list of most commonly misspelled words, and you'll out-test 90-something percent of the competition, no matter how much experience they have. If you can test well and interview well, you're in.

  • Explore Your Options. Keep in mind that there are plenty of copy-editing and "production editing" (copy editing plus layout and maybe paste-up and whatever) jobs at places other than newspapers. Non-profit organizations, big companies -- any place that publishes anything, even if it's just a newsletter. It might not be where you want to end up, but jobs like that can build a resume to the point where a daily newspaper would be willing to give you a chance. One of my younger brothers got an entry-level editing position mainly by knowing his stuff and testing well, and he's worked his way up through half a dozen jobs and is now doing quite well at his second daily newspaper. As you might imagine, geographical flexibility will go a long way toward determining your success via this route. If you're determined to start at an actual newspaper, this might mean living in a small town. If you decide to start with a non-newspaper editing job, a big city is the best place to look.

    Bill Walsh, chief of the Business copy desk at The Washington Post, also runs The Slot (, a World Wide Web site on usage and editing. This article is reprinted from the site with permission. Walsh's first book, "Lapsing Into a Comma," was published in August 2000.

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    Interviewing for a Newspaper or TV Reporting Job

    By Dan Rohn, founder,

    1. Sell Yourself.
    Make sure to mention at least two or three of your best selling points, such as your resourcefulness or ability to work well on deadline. Provide good examples.

    2. Show Knowledge of the Company.
    Before the interview, review at least a week's worth of the company's articles or broadcasts. Show that you're already familiar with its audience and the type of stories it is likely to run. If you're interviewing at a job fair, try to get the inside scoop from someone who has already interviewed with them.

    3. Ask About Training and Advancement
    Find out about development and training programs for young reporters. How does one get promoted? Such questions will show that you're thinking long-term and looking critically at the company.

    4. Be Ready to Talk About Your Clips or Demo Tape
    Explain how you got your stories, which ones you're most proud of, which ones were most challenging, and what you learned from each one. Employers want to see how you've progressed. You also might want to explain how you beat the competition on a story or how something unfolded.

    5. Be a Good Sport
    If the interviewer tells you you don't have enough experience, don't try to convince them how great you really are. Listen carefully and thank them for their advice. The tips they provide could prove to be beneficial if you interview with them again.

    6. Keep Your Options Open
    If your goal is to cover education or politics, but the interviewer tells you the company only has an opening for a crime reporter, don't frown and say you're not interested. Always keep your options open. Especially at job fairs, you're often planting seeds for further communication.

    Some Other Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before your interview.
  • Bring extra copies of your clips and demo tape just in case someone unexpectedly wants one.
  • Let the employer dictate the interview and be a good listener.
  • Take good notes so you can refer to them in your follow-up letter.
  • Don't be long-winded. Keep your answers clear and succinct.
  • Don't complain about your previous employer or co-workers, even if prodded by the interviewer.
  • Don't put your clips in a fancy binder. Instead, staple each story and assemble them with a paper clip.
  • For demo tapes, make sure they are well-labeled, with the tape cued up to your piece.

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    Broadcasters: Top 8 Ways To Sound Natural Reading From A Script
    By Susan Berkley

    The biggest mistake script readers make is getting so engrossed in correctly saying the words on the page, they forget to communicate with the human beings on the other side of the paper! They sound stilted, boring and put every one to sleep.

    Don't let that happen to you. Here are 8 of my broadcaster's tips to help you sound great:

    1. People speaking on the radio for the first time often mistakenly visualize a cast of thousands. People listen in groups of one. When reading to an audience or when speaking on radio, imagine you are speaking to an intimate friend. Really see your friend's face in your mind's eye.
    2. Look up occasionally to make eye contact, even if there is only one other person in the room. If you are reading from a script in a studio, read to the recording engineer or anyone else who happens to be there.
    3. Communication rides on energy. Speak with your entire body. Gesture frequently, even if no one can see you. When public speaking, if you have a portable mic, move around the stage. Imagine you are an actor in a staged reading or a newscaster on TV.
    4. Pause strategically for a few seconds to let your message sink in. While pausing, make eye contact. You can also pause as if searching for your next thought.
    5. Ad lib wherever possible. Put the script into your own words.
    6. Study the way people talk in casual conversation and emulate these speech patterns while reading from a script. Eavesdrop in restaurants. Notice how vocal dynamics fluctuate: louder, softer. Also notice how the pacing of conversational speech tends to vary and how the range of inflection is wide.
    7. When writing your own script, write like people speak -- bad grammar and all (skip the foul language, of course!). Be conversational, not grammatical. I promise I won't tell your high school English teacher.
    8. Add a few select non-words to give a more casual impression.
    This article was reprinted with permission from The VoiceCoach electronic newsletter by Susan Berkley. For a free subscription visit A top voice-over artist and coach, Susan Berkley is one of the voices that says "Thank You for Using AT&T." She is the author of "Speak to Influence: How To Unlock The Hidden Power of Your Voice." For more information, call 800-333-8108.
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    Do You Need a Graduate Degree in Journalism?

    By Walden Siew

    Walden Siew, a reporter for Reuters, is a 1995 graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

    So you're thinking about getting a graduate degree in journalism. In that case -- if you've done your basic reporting -- you're probably getting a lot of contradictory advice.

    The crusty city editor or beat reporter is probably telling you it's a waste of time. "Graduate degree in journalism! You learn everything on the job," a Chicago Sun-Times reporter growled at me long ago. Thanks for the advice, buddy, but his sentiments came too late. I happened to meet him while on a treasure hunt that Northwestern University assigned to their fresh-faced J-school students to learn about the joys of digging through public records.

    So, when I say J-school is not a waste of time, well, to say otherwise would be to invalidate a year of my life and more than $15,000 in tuition and expenses.

    But besides that, I also happen to believe it's true. Here's why:

    1. Experience. The great luxury of graduate school is the chance to work on a variety of beats -- a freedom few reporters have once entrenched in their job. I got to cover state government in Springfield (IL), Chicago politics, business news and also research then-emerging media companies such as America Online. The top J-schools also typically have good instruction on computer-assisted reporting, international programs or specialty training. They often have the latest equipment, which may spoil you. Accustomed to high-speed Internet-access, I was shocked to find Stone Age-era computers at my first newspaper job out of school.

    One caveat: If you have experience in newspapers or an undergraduate degree in journalism, grad school may be redundant for you. That's a familiar complaint of some J-school students who did come in with more experience. Otherwise, it can be a great opportunity for discovery.

    2. Learn From The Best. Look for schools that can boast journalists with impressive credentials. Get experience you don't get at a newspaper job. Any specialized training will help you down the road, if not immediately at your first job. Pay less attention to the location of the school and more attention to quality of instructors. J-school should give you the opportunity to meet and learn from experts in the field.

    3. Networking. There's a long list of those who have tread the path before you; it's remarkable how often you cross paths. It does help. But besides the networking, J-schools attract a lot of quality people from diverse backgrounds, ranging from former lawyers and MBAs to the stereotypical Woodward and Bernstein wannabes. Learn from students, journalists and professors who you admire, and keep in touch. Avoid those you don't.

    4. Alumni Services. Along with networking, alumni services often can tell you about new job openings, journalism seminars and the latest trends in your field.

    Here's the other side of the story.

    1. Cost. Enough said.

    2. Experience. Most of what you learn in any formal training is rarely used in "the real world." That old Sun-Times reporter was right in that you probably will learn most of what you need to know on the job. But if we extend that logic, why go to college, or even high school? However, if you know you want to be a sports reporter and have landed your first job at the local paper, you probably are on the best path to getting your dream job.

    3. Pay. While a J-school degree may be impressive, it doesn't usually pay off when negotiating a salary or raise. Most newspapers and broadcast jobs pay by experience, and this is especially so for unionized companies. Just another consideration.

    Last Advice: Graduate school is a huge investment, both in time and money. Before embarking, make sure you are fairly committed to becoming a journalist. How? If you don't have a lot of experience, get an internship. Freelance stories. Get your feet wet before you take the plunge. Don't go to grad school because you didn't get into law school or don't have anything better to do. Good luck!

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    Freelance Writing: 10 Tips to Keep in Mind
    By Monique I. Cuvelier

    Monique Cuvelier is a freelance writer based in Boston, Mass. She has written for numerous publications, including Smart Computing/PC Novice,, Family Software Magazine, Motoring and Leisure, Time Out, Aquent Magazine, Portera, CFO Magazine, EYE Magazine, and Apogee Photo Magazine. She is the author of "Consumer Guide's Best Web Sites for Jobs."

    With luck, pluck, and skin as thick as whale blubber, you can be a freelance writer. If you're persistent enough and the stars are smiling down on you, seeing your name in print isn't as inaccessible as you might think. But serendipity and talent will take you only so far. You'll need to learn freelancing's own brand of etiquette and adopt a little business sense to succeed. Here are 10 important points to keep in mind when launching your freelance writing career.

    1. Network. Freelancing is lonely work, and it's easy to lose touch with other writers. Making friends in the biz, however, can be the best career move you can make. Join some associations like the National Writers Union or correspond with members of a writer's e-mail list to meet people in your area. Besides patting your back when you've done well, friends can pass newspaper and magazine leads to you.

    2. Know your rights. Publishing rights are one of the most confusing aspects of freelancing, but it's one of the most important to understand. If a publisher owns the right to your copy, that means you can't sell it anywhere else – some contracts even bar you from writing again on the same topic or demand that you sign away rights for articles already published. In a writer's paradise, you'd retain all rights, allowing you to resell an article to as many magazines or newspapers as will buy it.

    Here's a short rundown of rights commonly sold by freelancers, but study other resources for a more comprehensive understanding: Electronic Rights: A publication may publish your work in any electronic medium, from Web sites to CD-ROMs. First Serial Rights: A publication may publish your article for the first time in any periodical, but you retain all other rights. Reprint Rights: A publication may run your story after it has appeared somewhere else. Reprint rights are nonexclusive, meaning you can sell them to many magazines or newspapers.

    3. Be professional. Always turn in professional-looking queries and manuscripts, either on a discreet letterhead or on clean, white paper. Also check first to see if a publication is willing to accept electronic submissions. If so, make sure to format them appropriately.

    4. Know the difference between "query letter" and "cover letter." A query is meant to entice editors into accepting an article, not to bully them into hiring you. Brash bragging and badgering might help you climb the corporate ladder, but these tactics are as good as a nonstop ticket to the slush pile in the publishing world. Woo editors with your writing prowess, not your capacity for self-flattery.

    5. Ask for a raise. I don't know of one magazine or newspaper that will volunteer to give you more money. They're quite happy to let you coast along indeterminately on the same rate you had when you began. After you've built a good relationship with an editor for six months or more, and you've proven you are a trustworthy contributor, ask for a raise. Explain that you've been dependable on deadlines, available for rewrites, and flexible with article focus. Any respectable publication will do the best it can to provide you with at least another $0.05 per word, but if they act insulted that you want more money, walk away.

    6. A check in hand is worth... Especially if you have just begun working for a new publication, have a check in hand before proposing another story idea. It's tempting to submit queries to the same magazine when you know the editor likes your style and you're loaded with great ideas, but resist until you feel comfortable about being paid. Many magazines pay upon publication, which means you might have to wait six months or more before your piece appears in print. Others pay upon acceptance, meaning they will cut a check as soon as they decide to run your article, usually about 30 days after submission. If you're not sure the magazine is keeping up with its end of the bargain, hold tight before sending in anything else.

    7. Submit your article ahead of time. Try to turn in your articles a week ahead of time. Harried editors love a head start, and they'll be glad they can count on you to not only make deadline, but to beat it. If a week ahead of time isn't possible, at least shoot for the day before.

    8. Keep communication open. No doubt, your job is to make the editors' job easy. That's what they hired you. Make it a habit, then, to check in to make sure you're on the right track. This means first submitting an outline, then maybe the first page. If you have any doubt about a source or the direction a story should take, touch base with your editor, either by phone or a quick e-mail.

    9. Submit error-free copy. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway.Make absolutely sure your manuscript is rid of errors. It's harder than itsounds. Thanks to word processors and the likelihood of typos, mistakes can infiltrate. Let your article sit an extra day before revising it, read it out loud, have a friend read it to you, do whatever it takes to iron the wrinkles from your articles.

    10. Don't be afraid to be late. Believe it or not, editors understand when you can't meet a deadline. Anything can happen, from family emergencies to troublesome sources pulling out at the last minute. As long as you're up-front and give them as much notice as possible that you're late, your editors won't mind.

    11. Give them more than they bargained for. Your assignment was to write 1,000 words on reforestation of Yosemite National Park, and that closes your end of the bargain, right? Wrong. Always give your editors more than they asked for. In this case, try a 100-word sidebar outlining the prescribed fires program or a list of Yosemite tourism resources. If you're handy with a camera, you can even provide photographs or names of photographers. Follow these 10 – oops! 11 – tips to freelancing, and you'll be running a successful business in no time.

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    What an Editor of a Small Daily Looks for in a Co-worker
    By Todd Franko, editor, The Sandusky Register

    My pursuit for new co-workers always focuses on the person first, the journalist second. For many reasons, I want to work with good people.

  • People Driven. A newspaper does not “happen.” It is the result of many people working together. If you cannot work with people, if you are not immediately at ease working with others, success will be challenging.

  • The Company's Face. As an editor, a lot of my hours are spent in the office. The people the public meets most are reporters, photographers and some content editors. You are “the newspaper” when you’re out on the street. You’re also me.

  • Doing Our Job. There will no doubt be some testy times with sources. Strong people skills can bring understanding during those differences, allowing each side to do its job and move on. But weak people skills can cause a bad situation to become cancerous. There will be times when a source will completely separate because of us “doing our job.” In those instances, a journalist of stronger character will rise above it and not let coverage suffer from that soured relationship.

  • Tough Times. Not a day goes by in a newsroom that is completely the same as another. Those changes can bring stresses. Forgotten assignments, weak coverage, disagreements are the norm. People of solid character can pull a newsroom through these daily stresses. People of weak character can prolong stress. Now, all of this does not mean that good people with poor journalism skills get hired. There must be some foundational ability in the craft. A “10” personality but a “4” journalist will not likely get hired. But a “10” personality who’s a “7” journalist is more appealing to me than a “10” journalist who’s a “7” personality. Assuming the candidate has solid clips, internships, performs well on our tests, etc., here are some other things I look for in the person:

    1. Strong Phone Presence. An on-site interview doesn’t happen without a phone conversation first. In that conversation, I want to be immediately at ease with the person. I want two-way conversation. I want to hear relaxed confidence in who you are, not a military-like recitation of how you will be the next Bob Woodward. Have a solid, full voice. The minute I have to start extracting dialogue from a person is when their appeal begins to slide.

    2. More Than Newspapering. I want to hear and see something in your life that shows a life outside of the newspaper. Sports, theater, community service, causes are all signs that you won’t be a loner sitting at home counting the days and hours you’ve spent in our town.

    3. People Interaction. As we tour the facility, introduce yourself to a staffer who makes eye contact with you; if we go out to lunch, I want to see who opens the door for someone coming out of where we’re going into or who picks up a knife that the waitress drops. I’m more comfortable with a person who does this.

    4. Alertness. During our on-site interview, I want you to engage in our surroundings. Interrupt me occasionally during conversations to have me elaborate or clarify a statement; observe and dissect things in our surroundings and tailor some of your questions to those situations. (Within these past three bullets, I find clues that will tell me if you're going to be a reporter who engages a source or will you sit back and write what they say and follow their agenda.)

    5. Something Should Go Wrong. You got lost and are late for the interview; the hotel reservation was screwed up; your waitress brought you Diet Coke instead of regular; someone cut you off as we drove to lunch. I hope for some of these (not all - I’m not that cruel) to happen during your interview to see how you handle it. How you react in those situations tells me something about you and how you’re likely to act when you’ve got 20 minutes to file a story. I haven't done it yet, but I’d love to compete with a candidate (pool, golf, racquetball, Scrabble, etc.) to see how they are in competition. A person's true character is often shown when their mettle is tested.

    Hiring is a tough job. But like other skills, you get better with time. The above approach has not always yielded good staffers for us. But more times than not, it has.
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