Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sharp ends and sharp minds

"Skillset is important. But mindset is most important."
That's a quote from Rob Curley, one of the sharpest guys working in media today, writing about what the next generation of journalists needs to bring to the job interview. You can read the rest of Rob's thoughts by clicking here.
Or you can just wait until I speak at the College Media Advisers convention in March, at which time I'm likely to steal many of Rob's ideas.

(My thanks to The Guardian's Kevin Anderson, who pointed me toward Rob's most recent quote. And my thanks to Kevin also for including me with Howard Owens and Steve Outing on the list of journalists that "are at the sharp end" of the changes in our industry. I assure you all, if I have anything at all to contribute to the conversation, I stole it from Rob, Howard, Steve, Rex, Mindy, Matt, Adrian or any of the dozens of other folks, all much sharper than I, that populate the journalism blogosphere.)

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  1. Here is more advice for new journalists:

    1. Realize from the start that you will be working for some of the most insecure people on the planet. I am not aware of another profession where the well-entrenched senior management (both editors and publishers) is terrified of young people with bright ideas and a desire to deviate from the rigid staleness that rules too many publications.

    2. Recognize that the majority of people working in journalism have no editorial talent whatsoever. It's probably worse in B2B media, where quality writing is not a priority.

    3. Do not pigeonhole yourself into expertise on a single subject. You will be typecast as a one-trick-writer and will never have the opportunity to expand into different areas.

    4. Do as much free-lance writing as humanly possible -- even when you have full-time work. It will build your portfolio, add more dollars to your bank account, and prove your versatility as a journalist.

    5. Make friends with publishers. I know of at least two editors at previous publications where I worked who occupy their editorial management positions only because they are buddies with their publishers. They did not get their work based on their skills -- they have no talent for management and are the worst writers I've ever encountered (their publications are unreadable debacles). But because their respective publishers like them a lot, they have the title of "editor."

  2. Hi Phil,
    Thanks for the comment. But I think you're too cynical about life in journalism.
    Sure, there are a ton of morons in this business. But morons are abundant nearly everywhere I look. And although I'll agree that many remarkably untalented people work in editorial, I disagree that "the majority of people working in journalism have no editorial talent whatsoever." I've known some brilliant writers and reporters in every field of journalism, including B2B.
    On the other hand, your advice in #4 is absolutely correct.

  3. Yes, let's append one more to Phil's list:

    6. Try to ignore co-workers who slag the entire trade press based (we charitably assume) on their own history of poor job choices.

  4. Add one more:

    7. If you're going to write something for the public to read, sign your name to it. People who post anonymous messages clearly don't have the courage to openly support their words and, thus, don't deserve to be taken seriously.

  5. Hi Phil,
    Sorry. I'm going to have to disagree with you again.
    There are many reasons why someone wouldn't put their name on a comment. Now most of the time I disagree with most of those reasons. Nonetheless, I publish anonymous comments that meet my standards.
    Just because someone doesn't "have the courage to openly support their words" does not mean that they should not be taken seriously. The latter does not depend upon the former.
    (FYI...My rule on anonymous comments is a simple one: no personal attacks. I don't view the earlier comment as an attack on you or anyone else. Thus it met my standard and I published it.)

  6. I respectfully submit that many of us in B2B live and die on quality writing. Please don't paint us all with that stale old brush.

  7. Hi Sue,
    Thanks for the comment.
    I agree completely. If things were half as bad as Phil seems to think they are, then half the people I know in B2B journalism would leave the business.
    Things may not be perfect in our industry. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I see room for all of us to improve. But I continue to be amazed by many of the talented people I meet in B2B publishing.