Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Thoughts about success

You're all asking so many important questions. Here are my thoughts about measuring success.
No doubt about it. When compared with some other "professionals," print and broadcast journalists will not make much -- at first or maybe ever. Newly graduated B.A.'s in journalism often find themselves in the trenches in places like Altoona and Zanesville, but many, if not most, eventually work their way up to larger operations and pretty decent salaries. A page designer I know with four years experience at small-to-medium-size dailies now makes 50G at a major West Coast daily.
Why wasn't he pulling those dollars right out of school?
Unlike medicine or law (professions with which we should NEVER be compared, by the way), journalism has no licensing examination or board certification and, in the case of medicine, no gruelling internship and residency requirements. (That's a good thing, by the way.)
Journalists, like professional baseball players, "qualify" for the big leagues by building a solid record of performance in the minors. Even then, the competition for spots at the major dailies and large market stations can be fierce and are subject to market and economic factors.
Some folks never make it out of the minors; others choose to stay in Altoona, where they take on greater responsibility and perhaps, eventually, become editors of newspaper or directors of news rooms. (That, too, is a good thing.)
In the end, talent will get you that first job, but where you go after that will be partly about luck but mainly about you. I've followed the careers of former students and co-workers and all of them who have gone on to the majors have done the following: Learned to HONESTLY assess their skill set and played to their strengths, studied the work of those who wrote or reported better than they did, made the most of every opportunity they were offered, never let "good enough" become their motto, accepted criticism thoughtfully and gracefully, and kept a sense of humor.


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