Notes on Freedman’s Letters to a Young Journalist

Samuel G. Freedman is an American author, journalist and professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Samuel G. Freedman’s sage if sentimental book Letters to a Young Journalist is a meditation on what it takes and what it means to be a journalist.

His intention is not to provide the “specific, situational guidance” of a gifted editor, but rather to discuss the habits of mind, the work ethic and the moral ethos necessary for journalistic excellence.

Those looking for a practical how-to guide should look elsewhere. As suggested by the title, the book reads like a series of letters from an old hand to an eager rookie. (Think Sophie’s World for cub reporters.)

Freedman states his intentions early on:

“I want you to believe, as I believe, that you have chosen a profession of consequence and value, a profession that requires no apology, a profession that can make you happy.”

A return to journalism as ‘honest broker’

Make no mistake, Freedman is deeply nostalgic and unwavering in his belief that tradition is a crucial teacher. He is, after all, a product of long-standing institutions like the New York Times and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

He defines journalism as “an honest broker of information” that has been “assiduously reported, verified for accuracy, and written without bias or partisanship” – a definition that emerged over the past century to dislocate its deeply partisan precursors.

“It was a radical step for journalists of the early 1900s to actually conceive of their work as a public service, untainted by personal belief, rather than an act of advocacy,” he writes.

Those who puzzle at journalism pre-Twitter may find Freedman’s anecdotes impossibly quaint, but to dismiss them is to refuse to look in the rearview mirror. (And, yes, objects are closer than they appear.)

He argues that we are witnessing a high-tech resurgence of a cynical, venal journalism that reverberates through “ideological echo chambers,” catering to those who would like to confirm what they already believe, and little else.

Sometimes he names names, blasting Fox News Channel as “a political movement masquerading as a news organization” and defends the fairness doctrine, however limited, as a superior standard to those that have replaced it.

“Journalism must do more than pander to prejudices,” he writes, adding that journalists cannot hope to reverse the trend toward disparagement and distrust of the media without renewing their commitment to excellence and public service.

Gone are the days that journalists, like Woodward and Bernstein, were widely regarded as heroes and news anchors, like Walter Cronkite, were trusted and respected. But the silver lining may be found in those that a battered profession now attracts.

“One thing you can say about the present unpopularity of journalism is that it drives out all the uncommitted,” Freedman points out, adding, “intellectual curiosity, vigorous research, acute analysis, and elegant prose will never go out of style.”

In defense of idealism

The unselfconscious sincerity of this book will not be palatable to everyone. Freedman admits he is not afraid to hold himself to a moral standard, or to sound naïve or sentimental.

He reassures fledgling reporters that their idealism and the clichéd desire to make the world a better place should not be so easily dismissed.

“[A]nyone who doesn’t enter journalism believing it is a moral enterprise might as well move straight on to speculating in foreign currency or manufacturing Agent Orange. There will be disappointments enough over the course of your career; your initial idealism must be a pilot light, flickering at times but never extinguished.”

Perhaps one of the most useful functions of the book is to point to common challenges and the reactions that quixotic young journalists, specifically, are likely to grapple with.

“Guilt is the sign of an active conscience. Undifferentiated compassion is a place to begin,” he says of navigating a world of issues that are knotty, gnarled and not so easily parsed.

“[The] most compelling journalism rarely takes the form of chronicling the battle between good and evil … The trickier and more valuable task is to illuminate the collision between good and good, or at least between competing versions and visions of what is good policy, a good community, a good citizen.”

Freedman encourages cub reporters to retain their humanity, to accept the burden of independent thought, to be wary of loyalty oaths and to realize that mistakes are rites of passage.

“To be witness, observer, and storyteller . . . is to reject the easy comforts of conventional wisdom and popular dogma. It is to welcome the dissonance of human events and to render that dissonance with coherence and style.”

He acknowledges that putting one’s readers, listeners and viewers first is not always easy, for instance when a community claims you as its own and/or expects you to further their interests.

“Many people will confuse an open ear with the promise of friendship, and some journalists, to their discredit, will encourage the misapprehension. The relationship between journalist and source, with both seeking some advantage from the other, is filled with ambiguity,” he says, blasting Janet Malcolm’s famous indictment of her fellow journalists.

(Although I quite enjoyed Malcolm’s book The Journalist and The Murderer, I agree that she was wrong — or at least not entirely right.)

Lessons learned the hard way

Freedman says he hinges his credibility on his failures more so than on his successes.

His cautionary tales and pointers get more specific as the book progresses. For instance: You should rarely use unnamed sources; don’t get addicted to approval; you will get “less stupid” over time; your first job won’t be the place you spend your life; read books as an apprentice, not a spectator; before you start an article, finish the sentence, “the heart of the matter is …”

He also stresses that preparing to be a journalist means preparing to be so much more, and questions the value of a standalone journalism education.

“I despair over every journalism class I took that could have been a class in political science or English literature or virtually anything else,” he admits. “All too few journalism programs, especially at the undergraduate level, strive to build your cultural and historical literacy and to imbue you with intellectual curiosity.”

This romantic regret was a theme throughout the book. Freedman – unlike the hard-nosed, strictly pragmatic editors of comic book newsrooms – encourages young journalists to do much more than read newspapers and pound pavement.

He argues that young people should also develop cultural literacy and an appreciation for the aesthetic experiences; seeking idols and inspiration in literature, film, jazz and “every great art.”

One subchapter that struck me, particularly because I see so many of my peers beating themselves up for struggling after graduation, was In Praise of Gradualism.

In it, Freedman argues that the important thing (especially in your twenties) is to develop your day-to-day skills – even if that means starting out in a smaller market.

“I can say that I have never seen a truly gifted young journalist go unrecognized. Maybe in the short run but never over time. There just isn’t that much excellence loose in the world that news executives can afford to ignore it.”

The P word we usually extol is passion, but Freedman says the key is patience. When you have the chance to work, whittle away your inexperience by honing your craft. And remember that the shine doesn’t last.

“Journalism is a business of proving yourself anew every single story, every single day.”

My overall thoughts about the book

The book isn’t perfectly packaged. For instance, its subtitle – The Art of Mentoring – is unsuitable, even misleading. And sometimes the chapter names and subsections seem arbitrary, as Freedman peppers similar points throughout the book and forces in some passages that probably could have been shortened or cut out entirely.

Buy this can all be forgiven if you think of this text as a correspondence – affectionately written –and of Freedman as a man of letters.

I quite enjoyed many of his literary references. I loved the introduction to his chapter on reporting, which compared two main characters in Manuel Puig’s novel Kiss of the Spider Woman to reporting and writing.

“Valentin is the part of every journalist that wants to be a social reformer, and Molina is the part that longs to be an artist.”

But as much as I liked the metaphor, I can see how others might lose patience with such meandering passages. What is lateral thinking to some may seem pointless detours to others.

And though I was generally absorbed, there were times I doubted our tastes were aligned. For instance, in his chapter On Writing he recommended a “brilliant” description of an explosion from The Temple Bombing (page 121 of Freedman’s text) that I found far too verbose and image-saturated.

Still, despite these criticisms I walk away with positive feelings about this book. I enjoyed it, and I found myself feeling affection for Mr. Freedman, who is so earnest it’s hard not to like him.

I’d especially recommend it to journalists with artistic ambitions, and to those who appreciate not only the lasting relevance but also the dissimilarity of their elder’s experience. (Those who would visit a seasoned writer for a cup of coffee, and not mind if that cup became several.)

Finding meaning in the worldview of another person, especially those of other backgrounds and generations, is one of the cardinal skills of journalism – and there are enough kernels of wisdom in this relatively short text to make it plenty worth your while.

_______________________________________________

Have you read this book? What did you think? If you’re a fellow bookworm, look for me on GoodReads.com (Username: FabReads)

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What is journalism? An overview for the uninitiated

This post was written for my 16-year-old cousin Lola, who recently told me that she wants to be a journalist.

So, let’s start by making sure she knows what she’s getting into, shall we?

Town-crier announcing the latest news on the island of Terschelling, the Netherlands, 1938.

Throughout time and across societies, human beings have had a basic need for knowledge beyond their own experiences.

Long before the internet, the newspaper and the 6 o’clock news, certain community members dedicated themselves to gathering and sharing information about the events and issues of the day. (Think: messengers, town criers, minstrels or coffee house nouvellistes.)

And for the past few decades, the term “journalist” has referred to a person — usually a man, often without formal qualifications —who earns a living by writing for a newspaper or periodical. This educational video from the 1940s sums it up well.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, many journalists began to think of their craft as a profession, with writers and editors forming organizations, and university departments offering formal education in journalism.

Journalists also identified with a particular medium. The Oxford English Dictionary still offers a platform-centric definition of journalism, describing it as “the activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television.”  (No mention of and/ors and the internet!)

Journalists’ identities have traditionally been tied to their newsrooms — or their respective “fortresses” as the BBC’s Peter Horrocks would say. Their daily task was simple: “to battle journalists from other fortresses.” (Think: scooping the competition on a hot story, scoring a high-profile interview, or being able to say “you heard it here first” after big news breaks.)

So, what has changed?

If we fast-forward to the state of the news media today,  we find that journalism as our parents and grandparents knew it has morphed into something very different.

Understanding journalism is now a much more complicated task,  as platforms converge and media-making tools become more widely available to the general public.

Long-established patterns of news production and consumption are being challenged by several forces, including:

  • Improvements in mobile and networking technology.
  • The digitization of content.
  • The convergence of platforms.
  • The reorganization of social relationships (from top-down to networked)
  • Changes in business models and structures of ownership.
  • The rise of participatory or citizen journalism.

Mainstream news organizations can no longer count on the control that comes with the scarcity of printing presses, airwaves and broadcast licenses, nor can they bank on the stable flow of advertising dollars, nor are they guaranteed the steadfast attention of increasingly disloyal audiences.

And so, as the media landscape changes, some thinkers have preferred to focus on journalism’s function above its form or platform. Here are a few useful definitions:

  • Veteran journalists and authors Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel argue that we need news “to live our lives, to protect ourselves, bond with each other, identify friends and enemies. Journalism is simply the system societies generate to supply this news”.
  • Michael Schudson, an award-winning historian of journalism, defines it as “the business and practice of producing and disseminating information about contemporary affairs of general public interest and importance.”
  • Similarly, influential communications theorist James Carey noted that “news is a historic reality,” or an invented cultural form that both comprises and reflects a particular “hunger for experience” that has tended to be historically grounded in the “changing style and fortunes of the middle class”.
  • Sociology professor Gaye Tuchman says that a news report is a story, which is not to say that it is fictitious, but rather to remind us that news is a “constructed reality with its own internal validity”.

Journalism has been called a craft, a field, a job, a business, an art form … and a few less pleasant things I’m sure. Indeed, it is all of these things for different people, and thus an object of debate in and of itself.

Where are we heading?

As this shift occurs, it is no longer enough to identify journalists by employer or platform alone. Few rookie reporters expect to work for one employer their whole lives, and many are developing a personal brand instead of depending on their newsroom’s reputation.

Many journalists can now write print stories, and make videos, and live-tweet the news as it happens, etc.

My 16-year-old cousin Lola — the future face of journalism?

They sort of had to up the ante, as new players are increasingly getting involved in the stages of news production long controlled by trained professionals – whether they are bloggers challenging the established 24-hour news cycle to put “old news” back on the agenda , or citizens committing “acts of journalism” before the mainstream media can get there.

Horrocks notes that the fortresses are crumbling, and “courtly jousts with fellow journalists are no longer impressing the crowds.”

I wrote my thesis on this, and let me tell you: the recent literature is a sea of ideas to re-think, re-vamp, re-position, re-envision, and re-structure the definition of journalism.

Outside pressures are now forcing conversations that have not been popular for years — but some argue that this period of reflection may also be an opportunity. Schudson notes that journalism’s public nature and vulnerability is precisely what keeps it alive, changing and growing.

Perhaps by necessity, more reporters are taking the time to think about what defines their work, and why it matters.

As internet visionary Clay Shirky writes:

“Because social effects lag behind technological ones by decades, real revolutions don’t involve an orderly transition from point A to point B – Rather, they go from A through a long period of chaos and only then reach B. In that chaotic period, the old systems get broken long before new ones become stable.”

So that, Lola, is a brief overview of this crazy thing called journalism. If you’re still interested, plug in your headphones and let CBC’s Ira Basen explain why your parents are much more surprised by all of this than you are.

Part One

Part Two

And when you’re done with all that, check out this blog I built for young people looking for practical advice: So, you want to be a journalist?

It features the advice from some of Canada’s most promising young reporters who call tell you all about the dilemmas, pains and absolute joys of these new circumstances.

Related posts from the Fab Files:

What would you like to ask CBC News?

I wrote this post for CBCNews.ca, and will be coordinating this project. You can view the original post here.


Have you ever wondered how journalists prepare for difficult interviews?
Or how reporters train for the dangers of conflict reporting?
Perhaps you’re curious about how a key investigation came together.

We want to make it easier for you to ask questions and get answers from the CBC News team across Canada and around the world.

As part of our ongoing effort to increase transparency and engage with our readers, we are launching a new online feature: Ask CBC News.

Here’s how it works.

You submit your question.

1) Think of a question. It can be about an editorial choice we’ve made, the story behind a story, or the important issues of the day. The best questions are open-ended and have a good shelf life.

Examples:

  • Do you think Vladimir Putin will win Russia’s presidential election tomorrow?
    (Weak — This yes/no question may be outdated by the time it gets to the reporter.)
  • How mainstream is the movement to oust Vladimir Putin? What are you hearing from average Russians and local media?
    (Strong — Open-ended question that draws on the reporter’s unique insight.)

2) Clearly indicate if your question is for a specific journalist. If it’s a general question, we’ll track down the best person to field it for you.

3) There are several ways in which you can submit a question:

  • Email your question to yournews@cbc.ca with the subject line “Ask CBC News”
  • Record yourself asking the question in a short video (upload here, or send us a link)
  • Write your question in the comment thread below
  • Tweet your question using the hashtag #AskCBCNews

The more thought and effort you put into your question, the more likely it will be answered.

Video questions stand the best chance of standing out and grabbing our attention. Your video will be included with the answer.

Don’t forget to introduce yourself and tell us where you’re from!

Our commitment to you

1) We will present your questions to CBC News reporters across Canada and overseas, who will record their answers in a video.

2) We will post the reporters’ responses on CBCNews.ca and share them on social media.

3) We will email you to let you know your question has been answered.

Please note that our goal is to have a video response to a couple of questions each week, but we may begin with bi-monthly posts in the early stages of the project.

Although we cannot guarantee every question will be answered, we will try our best to field as many as we can.

Ask CBC News is part of our broad mission to be even more accountable to Canadians. We view it as a great opportunity for reporters to connect directly to readers.

Here is an example of what a video reply might look like.

Thank you for reading us here at CBCNews.ca and tuning in on TV and radio. We hope to hear from you soon!

I don’t, and I will never, know enough

How can one little worm get through all the books? (Photo credit: lawrence_baulch on Flickr)

I’ve stared at this phrase for the last 10 minutes:

“Substantial and demonstrable knowledge of regional, national and international issues.”

I’m applying for a more permanent job at the CBC, and this requirement initially sent me into a bit of an epistemic tailspin.

I automatically read it this way:

Substantial (in terms of importance? breadth? expertise? And by what metric? As compared to the average person or the seasoned journalist? ) and demonstrable (does this mean showing an awareness of topics selected at random? Being able to speak to any number of complex issues intelligently? Writing a multiple choice test?) knowledge (regurgitation of what I’ve read? analysis and criticism? facts and figures? All of it?) of regional, national and international issues (local blogs, front page news, foreign media — all of the above? All of the above on every story? What about cultural frameworks, privileged narratives, power relations?

Grad school: I think you did this to me.

While completing my master’s degree, I started many sentences with: “what do you mean by … ?” and “what’s your definition of …?”

The weird thing is that I was always a somewhat reluctant academic. While sitting in the so-called ivory tower, I wondered if most people could appreciate the things that go on at that altitude. Too often it felt like the scholars were less interested in exchanging meaning and more interested in making audiences nod and say “aaah, brilliant.”

I was also very aware that the opposite of dumbing it down was the equally ridiculous act of puffing it up.

By Bill Watterson

But there’s no denying this: my worldview has been forever changed by all those lectures, books and mind-boggling debates. I developed more intellectual stamina, in spite of the pain of attention. I also learned to appreciate the value of being a self-critical and well-read reporter.

Mid-career journalists like Tim Porter warn that it’s too easy to fall into the daily grind, allowing journalism to simply be whatever journalists do. As he wrote in a 2003 post:

“I practiced journalism, but I knew almost nothing about it …while working in a role dedicated to informing the public, I had precious little information about my own profession, about its best practitioners (or greatest charlatans), about its history and role in the development and preservation of democracy, about its standards or even about the people I intended to inform – the community around me.”

Statements like these make me want to hold on to my Michael Schudson and Stephen Ward books — but at the same time I know that I can’t just name-drop media scholars if I want to do well on a day-to-day basis.

As a fresh graduate, I now face the world beyond academia and must imagine an audience that doesn’t consist of university students and professors. As I list hard skills on my resume — hint: deconstructing normative paradigms didn’t make the cut — I once again find myself searching for balance.

Where is the solid ground between contempt for the “ignorant masses” and contempt for the “snobby elites”? Between shallow generalization and pinpoint specialization? Between the strictly practical and the hopelessly philosophical?

It’s important to me that I do this thing both skillfully and thoughtfully. I’ve loaded this blog with questions: Is it crazy to choose journalism in the first place? How can I bring kindness and nuance to my work? How sensitive can a journalist be? How can we have conversations about ethics that don’t seem stuffy?

I still have too few answers, but maybe that’s okay.

Part of what drives me is my dissatisfaction with what I know and my genuine desire to always do better. For this reason, I’ve concluded that “substantial and demonstrable knowledge” must be a process, and never a pinnacle.

The best I can do is keep learning, and keep humble.

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Why young journalist Kai Nagata quit his stable job

Kai Nagata in Chibougamau. Photo from his blog: kainagata.com

Kai Nagata was in a privileged position for a young journalist.

As CTV’s Quebec City Bureau Chief, he had a well-paying position, decision-making power, collegial ties, and even retirement options … all at the age of 24.

And then this:

After I finished reading Kai’s  personal essay “Why I quit my job” — an impassioned post about the state of television news in Canada — I had to do more than retweet it.

I think he’s hit a nerve. At time of writing, his original post has generated hundreds of responses and has gone viral on social networking sites. People have called him everything from radical and insane to honest and brave. Many have commented on his age, which reminded me of something Samuel G. Freedman wrote in his book, Letters to a Young Journalist (2006).

Freedman, who teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, praises such critical yet optimistic attitudes in newly minted journalists. He argues that everyone should enter journalism believing it is a moral enterprise and that “your initial idealism must be a pilot light, flickering at times, but never extinguished.”

Good news: outside pressures are now forcing such conversations in journalistic circles, and this period of reflection is an opportunity. Journalism’s public nature and vulnerability is precisely what keeps it alive and changing. Perhaps by necessity, more reporters are taking the time to think about what defines their work, and why it matters.

Kai’s post has expressed why he’s getting out of television journalism, but it has also indirectly challenged other young journalists to ask themselves why they’re getting in. Even though he’s leaving us, I thank him for (re)igniting the conversation about journalism as a public good.

The battle against ignorance, intolerance and indifference is not a new one, not even when it comes to TV news.

I leave you with an excerpt from “Good Night and Good Luck,”. Here’s Edward R. Murrow (played by David Strathairn) on our journalistic duty to make television that matters:

… if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.

Read: Kai Nagata’s post “Why I quit my job”

Thesis hangover: a post for posterity

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve been neck-deep in another website (So, you want to be a journalist?) for several months. Short explanation: that site somehow became my thesis project.

I’m now finished with grad school — wow, it feels so good to write that! — but I’m still recovering from it. My thesis hangover was particularly brutal. It was not really the result of putting the site together, which wasn’t too bad, but more to do with writing a 60-page literature review that grounds the blog’s anecdotal advice in relevant academic texts.

Without getting into the details, here’s the breadth of what I researched and wrote about:

  • the current media landscape
  • the changing definition of journalism
  • the role of journalism education in adapting to 21st century needs
  • the professional norms, ethics and standards that guide journalists in their day-to-day practice
  • the relationship between journalism and democracy/the public sphere (ideals and critiques)
  • the role of technology (historical precedents/convergence)
  • the rise of participatory journalism
  • the reconfiguration of economic models.

Yep — that’s why I started calling my literature review “the beast.” Thing is, in order to appreciate the plethora of the changes young journalists are seeing in this field, it’s important to dabble in all of the above.

Now, I’m proud to say I’ve completed the project, presented the site my peers, and had plenty of great naps since flying back to Toronto. The word “thesis” no longer triggers heart palpitations and nausea in me.

So, I guess this means I’m finally ready to introduce the project a little more thoroughly, and then promise to start blogging about, you know, other things.

Here goes!

Screen shot of my "prezi" (interactive presentation) that walks through the main features of the site

1) What is the website, and why’d you do this to yourself?

“I can say that I have never seen a truly gifted young journalist go unrecognized. Maybe in the short run, but never over time. There just isn’t that much excellence loose in the world that news executives can afford to ignore it.”
– Samuel G. Freedman, Letters to a Young Journalist (2006, p. 149)

“So, you want to be a journalist?” is an anthology of original advice by young journalists, for young journalists. It includes 34 blog entries that range from general guidance to platform and genre-specific pointers. The site also includes a multi-platform resource section for those interested in further reading, listening, and viewing.

The project was inspired by my experiences as a teaching assistant for the UBC School of Journalism’s undergraduate new media course. Many of the students are considering a career in journalism, and have expressed interest in hearing practical advice from those who are succeeding at the entry level of the profession.

In response, I created the website and (insert elaborate explanation here) it ended up becoming my thesis project.

2) How did you chose the young journalists?

Full disclosure: I did not use a quantitative metric to gauge the potential of the participants.

We are a generation that is making its way forward during a time of immense transition in both the industry and in society at large, and I would argue that measuring potential is not a precise science. Still, I want to be transparent about this very important question.

Of the 34 young journalists featured on the site, nine were selected by me for their specialty knowledge, 24 were recommended to me by their peers, and one approached me with his qualifications after having come across the site. I have met 17 of the 32 contributors in person. They are 15 men and 19 women of various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, but all have some form of post-secondary education.

Missing from this mural: Gerald Deo and Alexandra Posadzki (most recent contributors)

Each one of these incredible young people have demonstrated passion and proficiency, but all have done so in different ways.

Some have earned prestigious accolades early in their careers. Ex: Allison Cross and Leslie Young were part of the first team of (Canadian) students to win an Emmy award, and Jasmeet Sidhu has already been named one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women by the Globe and Mail.

Others stand out for their specialized talents in particular areas. Ex: Alejandra Hering has advanced experience in creating online portfolios, and Adam Avrashi has hosted his own morning radio show.

Still others have demonstrated incredible ambition on the ground. Ex: Jesse McLean, while still an intern at the Toronto Star, reported from Haiti after the 2009 earthquake. During Toronto’s recent G20 summit, Bethany Horne broke news that police had been granted extra powers .

Basically, my compilation is more qualitative than it is standardized, and is by no means an exhaustive list of everyone with potential. Off the top of my head, I can name several promising young reporters that I don’t have on my site. Ex: Jodie Martinson, Daniel Dale, Sunny Dhillon, Jennifer Yang, and Anna Mehler-Paperny.

3) What did you learn about your peers?

It has been eye-opening to read the perspectives of my peers — many of whom recast uncertainty as opportunity. As Samuel G. Freedman notes, “If you care about journalism and you care about excellence, you cannot help but feel despair when it or you don’t measure up”.

Without the promises of fame, fortune, or even relative stability, these young talents are choosing journalism in an unpredictable time. Many are producing quality public service journalism, and rising above the expectations of the  so-called “tuned out” generation. They are showing up with their sleeves rolled up, ready to lay the foundations of 21st century journalism.

Mark Deuze neatly summarizes the situation they now face: “The biggest challenge worldwide seems to be to find ways to educate and train tomorrow’s media professionals based on the need to retain, reconnect with, join hands with a fragmented, disengaged, and increasingly critical public in the context of contemporary democracy” (2009, p. 141).

This is our task as young journalists, and we should not take it lightly. Our generation is coming up through the system, and we have the historic opportunity to change it from within.

I’ve been inspired by the caliber of those who are embracing this challenge.

4) Okay, so what did they write about?

There are many ways to navigate the site (scrolling down and reading in reverse chronology, sorting by author, sorting by title) but I think the following categories break it down best. Enjoy! And please visit again soon.

Journalistic Mindset and Attitude

Strategies for Entering the Profession

Specific Tips and Pointers

Platform and Genre Specific Advice

Alternative Perspectives

Aspiring journalists: globetrotting and google can be good for you

I know it seems like I’ve been cheating on this blog again, but I can explain, I swear! I think about the Fab Files all the time. It’s still the most important blog to me.

Okay, I admit it: I’ve been channeling most of my efforts into “So, You Want to be a Journalist?” — an anthology of original advice for those that want to enter journalism and help shape the future of news. But the good news is: that blog and this one can be friends!

Here are two wonderful new entries by two awesome young women:

The interview begins online. How do you introduce yourself?

By Alejandra (Alex) Hering

In the words of online marketing trailblazer, Gary Vaynerchuck, “Everything has changed.” For journalists, the internet and social media platforms have changed everything about the way we do our jobs and how our boss’ boss makes money. As a result, today’s top editors are looking for journalists who can do it all, for less.

This is a massive opportunity. Take the time to understand how the web works, how users make money online, and how you can harness that into your next big break. For a competitive edge, you have to think bigger than print clippings in folders that you bring to interviews. The interview begins online when prospective employers and collaborators google you

Continue reading …


Stand out. Go global!

By Jasmeet Sidhu

The journalism business in Canada can be a tough nut to crack into, especially if you are not in a j-school (I went to the University of Toronto and did Peace and Conflict Studies). There are only a handful of internships at a handful of major newspapers, television outlets etc.

However, one way to really distinguish yourself, gain incredible skills in reporting, and really add a completely unique perspective to your writing and the way you look at issues, is to carve out your own opportunities around the world.

Continue reading …

Dashboard tells me I have 48 active subscribers, but since you lovely folks are not part of my extended family, I can’t bank on you loving me unconditionally. I have to tell you that my blogging will probably continue to be spotty until finals are over (I am, after all, a frantic grad student) but I will still try my darndest to keep the content a-flowin’

Thank you for subscribing. And if you’re just passing through, thank you for that too!