Guest Post: The Moment I Knew Journalism Wasn’t For Me

This post was written by @KDorau21(Kyle Dorau). Though, he isn’t a journalist, Kyle’s journey isn’t one to miss.

“Will you just shut up and make the best of it!?”

My photographer Ed apparently had enough of my tantrum on the T entering Boston. To say I was sour about having to spend my weekend covering the Women’s NIT (catch the fever!) would be an understatement. His reaction put me in my place, and rightfully so. But it was a great wakeup call in recognizing that I wasn’t cut out for the life of a journalist, even in sports, which has always been a passion of mine.

Very few people get to cover exactly what they want to. To break into the journalism business, you have to be willing to do anything, and that’s a huge commitment. A town beat, while a great way to make a name for yourself and break into the business, just isn’t for me. If I ever had to attend a city council meeting to report on a parking referendum for a Farmer’s Market, I would throw myself out a window.

The job of Sports Editor at the CCSU Recorder fell into my lap. I knew a few of the members through journalism classes, but never really talked to them much. One day, the Editor-In-Chief at the time asked me to cover a CCSU Ice Hockey game. I obliged, and got a fairly sizable game report as my debut article. The following summer, there were some staff changes, in which I was asked a number of times to join as the Sports Editor. Trying to balance school, a part-time job and other responsibilities, I declined several times. Until I learned that I would get paid. That changed my mind fairly quickly.

I was an awful Sports Editor. I lacked the work ethic, professionalism, and quite frankly, talent that the job required.  I was often too intimidated to ask questions of Men’s Basketball coach Howie Dickenman that had any insight. My meeting attendance was virtually nonexistent, although that was an aspect that I negotiated during my recruitment. A nice perk for a college student with a social life, but really a negative in terms of advancing one’s career.

The lack of interest in attending meetings was indicative of why I wouldn’t make it in journalism. I wasn’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary. Reporting requires guts, the ability to think on your feet, and an intangible gift that not too many people have in order to be successful. It’s not that I’m lazy. Quite the contrary. I’ve done my share of manual labor and earned my paychecks. On a related note, this washed-up journalist-turned-building materials salesman can get you a GREAT price on drywall. Let me know.

My time as sports editor wasn’t as negative as I’m making it out to be. I made some great friends at the Recorder, got fantastic seats for sporting events, and it paid handsomely for what it was. I think anyone heading to college that’s even remotely interested in writing should join their student newspaper. But if you’re thinking of it as a career path, I caution you to be aware of moments like the one I had en route to Boston University.

You don’t get into journalism for the cash. Honestly, I probably make more money now than most of my friends who do it professionally. But I would also be willing to bet that most of them enjoy their jobs more and are more passionate about what they do. At times I miss journalism. But I know it’s not for me. And so do all the people sitting around me on the train on that day in 2009.

Don’t forget to check out my reaction tomorrow!

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Guest Post: Virtues of Versatility

This post was written by @SullyOnSports (Tom Sullivan). He’s one of the smartest people I know.

So, guest post number four! I hope you’re as excited as I am…

Let me begin this post by saying that your favorite blogger and journalist, Jon, has asked all of us to share some insight into (or out of, in Brittany’s case) the world of journalism so he can express a number of different viewpoints in this space.

I’ve known Jon the longest of all the other guest posters. I think, actually, that I was there the day Jon began this adventure into the world of news and information. It was a Newswriting I class at Manchester Community College in the fall of 2008. Jon was a fresh-faced transfer student from the University of New Haven Mechanical Engineering Program, and I was the grizzled Communications major. Jon sat in the back with some people he knew, I sat in the front either because I’m a total nerd or arrived late that day. Jon was new to it, but you could tell he was in love with it right away, and we became fast friends writing for the school’s paper together.

On to me… Firsts first, I am not a professional “journo,” as Jon likes to endear himself and his contemporaries.

But wait, my resume says Thomas T. Sullivan, B.A. Journalism, CCSU 2010, so what am I doing with my life if my byline doesn’t ever appear ANYWHERE , the way Jon and Mike’s do so often? Well, Jon and Mike, and Brittany until her recent defection, have always branded themselves writers or reporters, and I NEVER thought of myself that way.

Jon wrote on Matt’s blog  about his recent revelation that video and photo are going to be a big part of career for the rest of it. HELLO, it’s 2012! What did you think you’d need to know!? (Seriously, why do you read this guy?… just kidding, he’s a great reporter, and a very good friend)

In all seriousness, any forward thinking professor of mass media should have pointed this out to Jon the second he expressed any interest in reporting, but people like to cling to what they know. NOT ME, the reason I chose to matriculate in the journalism program was because my passion is simply creation. And by that I mean production, development, and generation; not the intelligent design that many think simply placed our Earth, as it exists, in the middle of our universe magically.

I love to create, I love learning new ways to create, and I love creating things that have impact (or can, at least, be seen). I’ve experimented, and often succeeded, with all types of creation including: audio, video, graphic design, writing (you’ll be the judge of my level of success here), painting, drawing, some rudimentary web design, and a little acting.

Lots of things there, right? Sure, I could venture into other media like carpentry, welding and carving, but in the words of Nick Carraway, those might position me in the territory of “that most limited of all specialists, ‘the well-rounded man.’”

This curiosity hasn’t killed me yet; maybe because I refuse to refer to myself as a “cat.” How pretentious would that be?

I continue to look for new ways to express my creativity. And maybe it’s true that limiting my specialties has kept me from an actual job as a professional journalist, like my friends who have written here before me; but I don’t regret anything. I know that in the long run I’m better off with this plethora of pertinent proficiencies (See I can write! That’s called alliteration); and that is the only advice I would give to any reader who is also “just starting out.” It’s great to be exceptional at one thing, but never limit yourself, always stay open to new ideas, and don’t ever be afraid of change.

So what am I doing as a jour-not? Three things. My grown-up gig is in the Academic Technology department of my alma mater. This job is great for me because all of the advice I gave in the above paragraph, I can share with people who come see me at CCSU. My job is to teach the faculty and students what I know about multimedia technology so that they can use those mechanisms to augment their educational experience. I’ve also taken on some freelance video work to supplement my income, mostly for PR or instructional purposes. These assignments are great because of the final product, and the cash, but the downside is that I am always at the mercy, and the beck and call, of the client.

The third thing I’ve picked up is more of an avocation, a passion project; but it has been nothing but fun. Every Thursday night, my friend Jonny (@jonndailey) and I, release a podcast called “Lateral Moves.”

Now, I’ve been listening and subscribing to podcast for about six years, but I know they are just beginning to make their way into the mainstream. So for those of you who don’t know, a podcast is a downloadable, free, audio or video file that consumers can subscribe to using an RSS feed. Basically an on-demand, Internet radio show.

Lateral Moves averages about 45 minutes per episode, and it’s just Jonny and I making mirth like we normally would in private conversations, but recording it for people all over the world to hear. Sometimes we have a guest or two, sometimes we have a more direct topic, but it usually devolves into just a conversation about life.

Why would anybody want to listen? Your guess is as good as mine. It confounds me too; but we’re up to around 50 subscribers, and that doesn’t count the people who are just downloading each episode manually.  It’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had, and there’s nothing cooler than seeing peoples’ reactions to us on twitter between episodes each week.

So please, subscribe to us in iTunes, or visit our website and download there: lateralmov.es (clever, huh?). I’d like to promise that you won’t regret it, but I can’t, all I can do is reiterate not to be afraid, because we’re pretty cool dudes. Jon is one of our avid listeners and maybe our biggest fan. Hopefully we’ll have him on soon. So listen, won’t you?

To conclude, I’d like to stress that I WILL interview anyone naked (take that, Mike).

Look for my reaction post tomorrow!

Guest Post: Leaving Journalism Behind

This post was written by one of my best friends @BrittanyEBurke.

I’ve known Jon for a few years now, so when he asked me to come in as a guest blogger I was flattered. We were colleagues on the school paper, The Recorder, him as news editor and me heading up sports. While we were co-workers, most importantly, we are friends and I admire his thirst for information.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to sit in our office on Monday nights bouncing ideas and arguing with Jon about my sports column for the upcoming issue. He wasn’t afraid to tell me what he thought and, more often than not, we decided to agree to disagree, but that’s what makes our friendship so awesome, for lack of any other way to describe it.

With the amount of arguments we had within the walls of our office or Willard 214, it doesn’t surprise me that he pokes at the idea of me leaving behind journalism in favor of public relations. I suppose it’s more of a curiosity, which makes sense with Jon’s journalistic instincts.

See, when he graduated in December he opted to go straight into the journalism field covering multiple towns in Connecticut. I, on the other hand, would poke my eyes out if I had to do that day-in and day-out, and he knows that. So, a couple of months before graduation, I made the decision to go to grad school at CCSU for PR.

When he asked me to guest blog he said I could write about anything, but added that he’d really like to know how I make the switch from being a journo to being a public relations specialist. I’ll gladly write about when the fall semester begins. While I haven’t begun my grad classes, I did get a taste of the PR life last semester and I’ll tell you right now, the transition will not be easy.

Will it suck? Probably. But will it be worth it? Yes. I explored the idea of public relations because the journalism field is changing so drastically that it only made sense to expand upon my talent, which is writing.

The hardest thing that I’ll have to overcome isn’t even the physical writing differences between journalism and PR, it’s the mental differences.

George Orwell once said, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations,” and he is right. That will be the hardest thing for me to get used to.

For the past three years I have been taught the principles of such greats as Woodward and Bernstein, who stopped at nothing to uncover the truth. I have been taught that it is my first priority to inform the public to the best of my ability and that is what I have always tried to do. I learned quickly how to toe the line between having good, working relationships with sources and becoming someone’s publicist…ironic, I know.

Now, I have to virtually throw my ethics out the window and forget everything I’ve learned, minus the difference between hard and soft news (PR people love journos willing to cross over to the dark side because we can write). I have to learn how to spin information to best fit the source and not inform.

It’s going to be rough, and it’s going to make for an interesting couple of years because I’m not casting the journalist in me aside, I’m trying to better it.

Want to read more from Britt? Check out her blog here. Look for my reaction post tomorrow!

Guest Post: Something to Write About Nothing to Write

This post was written by @MatthewClyburn another former boss and great friend. He’s a CCSU PoliSci graduate and has taught me a lot about writing, editing and how to be a responsible adult.

If you’re a writer, a time will come when you have nothing to write. This is a universal truth – whether you’re a reporter in the trenches churning out two stories a day, or a now-and-again blogger turning two posts a year. You’ll panic when there’s nothing to write. You’ll create sloppy pieces of scattered thoughts when there’s nothing to write. And worst of all, you’ll still write, even when there’s nothing to write.

In these moments of uncertainty, return to the fundamentals.

Take a shower.
When you’re in front of a computer screen – heck, when you’re in front of a typewriter or notepad – you’re in front of a world of distraction. Indeed, we pay a high price for modern tools of information and efficiency: anxiety and attention deficit disorder. The shower is a place where fear works in your favor. Mainly, it would be a much higher risk to use your iPhone in the shower than to spend five minutes without it. That’s coverage you can count on! A few minutes of thoughtful solitude, away from electronic devices and writing utensils, can do a world of good for your writing. To boot, people get their best ideas in the shower. In fact, I got my idea for giving you this idea in the shower. That’s unusually meta.

Read one chapter of a great novel.
Two things to note on this one. First, I did not say, “read a news article or a blog posting, or whatever-the-hell it is you usually write.” I also did not say, “read a factually inaccurate book by Bill O’Reilly about Abraham Lincoln.” Read the first chapter of a classic, solid, beautifully-written novel. Dickens usually does it for me, A Tale of Two Cities in particular. Second, I did not say read the next chapter of a book you’re already reading. Although the best storytelling belongs to the meaty middle section of any novel, the beginning of great literature demonstrates how to tell a great story. You’ll be reminded of the important foundation being laid out in the first chapter, and this foundation is critical to a well-constructed narrative. No matter what you write, you’re telling a story. Good storytellers need to create a narrative in the style of great storytellers, so simply pick up a book and start reading.

Call your mother.
Just great advice generally. Moms also have a knack for inspiring and/or annoying us. Use those times to look at yourself, your approach to interpersonal relationships, and your approach to writing. You also might score a real gem about the good old days, complete with tall tales of long distance phone call charges, video stores, and Herman Cain.

People-watch.
In line with the narrative theme, you’ll want to get a good look at some real characters. Perusing Facebook won’t do the trick here; our digital presence is often a caricatured version of ourselves. Get out into the world to watch your fellow homo sapiens in action. Accents, quirks, bad habits—these are all reminders of how humans act and how the human story is told. Great characters provide focus for your writing. If nothing else, you’ll be prompted to remember your most important character: the writer. Your style, your persona, and your personality are conveyed in your writing to great effect, for better or worse. Use your observations of real-world characters to determine the character you want to be. “Is this introduction an appropriate foundation for the story I’m trying to tell?” you should ask yourself. “Does the flow of this piece serve my objective, or delay it?” you may consider. Or, “will jokes about Bill O’Reilly and Herman Cain make the reader think I’m a Democrat?”

Finally, the best piece of advice I can provide for writers with nothing to write is this: write an article about writers that have nothing to write. You’ll end up just fine.

Want to read more from Matt? Check out his blog here. Look for my reaction post tomorrow!

Guest Post: Working From Home

This post was written by @MichaelCWalsh, a former boss and great friend. He currently freelances for the Hartford Courant.

When Jon asked me to do a guest post on his blog about my life as a freelance journalist I realized I’d have plenty to fill the great space of his blog with.

I’ve talked at annoying length with him, friends and family about my experiences of doing journalism outside of a newsroom and inside of my office (better known to some as my childhood bedroom).

When my internship ended at the Hartford Courant last August I was offered a freelance position with the newspaper. Not knowing how long it would last, I took the offer and began my journalism life outside of the newsroom. I continued to cover the Connecticut towns of Vernon and Tolland I became familiar with last summer.

Even though it wasn’t a full-time job, I was thrilled to have the position. It obviously meant a lot that the folks in Hartford felt I had performed enough to be a reliable source of more news for their print and online products. Besides, the offer had a more permanent feeling attached to it compared to other freelancing gigs I’ve heard about before.

And so since last September I’ve been doing all of my news writing and some of my interviews from inside my bedroom. Being stuck in a rather tiny and all too familiar space is both a blessing and a curse. I’m comfortable with the space and everything is mine. I can work wearing whatever stupid Phish t-shirt I want to. Or maybe even interview someone naked. I’m kidding, that last part never happened.

The great thing about freelancing is working on your own terms. You set your schedule yourself and if I want to nip out sometime in the afternoon to meet a friend for lunch I can certainly do so, provided I’m caught up on work and have the time. That sort of freedom and flexibility is one fantastic aspect of my personal freelancing set up.

But I quickly learned that if I don’t get out enough to Vernon and Tolland, or escape my house for a few hours during the middle of my slower days, I’d soon grow tired of my own living space. Cabin fever is a very real thing. I’ve spent entire days in my house, alone, doing interviews and writing. While I have always appreciated the hermit crab lifestyle, not leaving the house and heading to an office or newsroom can be quite a drag on some days because of how important outsider human contact is to a person. And even though I’m talking to numerous people on the phone, exchanging e-mails with others and sifting through Twitter the entire day I, at times, feel very much alone and disconnected.

That’s why I hunger to find myself back inside a newsroom sometime soon. Whether it’s as large as the Courant’s, the newsroom experience is valuable to a growing journalist. When I was an intern for the Courant, it was great to be sitting merely feet away from the editors who read and work on my articles and being right next to some of the best writers the newspaper has to offer was itself a boost to my experience.

I already know this freelancing gig will only last so long. I will be back in a newsroom eventually. But while I’m on this ride, I might as well enjoy it and get everything I can out of it. The experience has been great and I’ve been able to adjust to the lifestyle very well. I can’t say I hate the idea of being able to listen to Phish at loud levels, pop on a great TV show or even watch parts of a movie while I wait for an important source to return a phone call.

I just won’t interview anyone naked.

Want to read more from Mike? Check out his blog here.  Look for my reaction post soon!