Monday, November 08, 2004

Interview with a Vicious Reporter

Hi everyone. My name is Shana Till, and I'm an electronic journalism major here at USC. I'm excited about the opportunity to join the j-school year blog.

Now with the campaigning, mud slinging and propaganda of Election 2004 coming to an end, I finally feel America has an opportunity to sit back and release a huge sigh of relief. It's over.

At the same time, I feel I get to take a deep breath and recover from the hectic past two weeks.
I realized it wasn't just that I was being barraged by Tenenbaum and DeMint ads that had me down, but I was still reeling from my very first professional interview. I had anticipated being nervous and overly self-conscious, but I was not prepared for what my interviewer had in store for me that day.

I was shocked to find my interviewer made up his mind about me in 1.5 seconds. I shook his hand, sat down and offered him my portfolio. He skipped to the clippings and frowned immediately.

"So, you just write music criticisms?" he asked.

Trying to hold back my instinctive defense mechanisms, I replied with an explanation that my clippings reflect my main journalistic focus. He cared not one bit that writing about the music business has always been my passion. He showed no remorse in telling me that this type of writing was unnecessary and showed no writing or journalistic skills whatsoever. This is all, of course, without regard to the other parts of my portfolio. I couldn't even get him to glance at my resume and professional experience.

When I tell people that I want to cover the music industry, I know I'm faced with convincing them that it's not simply to "meet the band." I'm compelled to glorify the historical links between music and journalism. I want people to see that music journalism surpasses what Mrs. Britney Spears Federline wore during her latest tour. It instead encompasses a world in which music influences society and vice versa.

I realize the journalism job market is as cutthroat as ever, but every potential employee should be judged fairly. Good writers deserve respect no matter what beat they might cover. If I were to use the same logic my interviewer used, I would not respect him as much because I do not particularly care for the crime reports section of a daily.

My interviewer also expressed his distaste for a new concept referred to as "convergence." If media outlets do not acknowledge growing trends, how can they recruit fresh journalists who have been trained to accommodate these changing times?

Overall, I learned something from this situation. Here are two things my interviewer taught me.
1. Writers should include clippings of all types in their portfolio. In other words, clippings from both news and features sections look better than articles from just one or the other. This also shows you can adapt to all situations as a writer.
2. No one interviewer's opinion should affect your true ambitions as a journalist. Instead, work on what needs improvement and do not allow yourself to be discouraged by one person who does not see eye to eye with your aspirations.

I was extremely upset after this interview, but hindsight has proven that this was simply a learning experience. I realized that today's journalists must fight tooth and nail to receive every bit of respect they deserve.


Blogger Newspaper Hack said...

I had a similar experience. Though every professor I've ever had said that they love what I write, the Charlotte Observer and The State didn't even look at my clips before they gave me the ol' heave-ho. I guess if you write great articles for a college newspaper it doesn't matter a damn.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Jenni said...

o gotta love how people think 'entertainment' journalists can't write. sorry but i have absolutely no respect for someone who judges someone within 5 minutes of knowing them. or even 10 minutes. hell, even ever. because once you really know someone you can't really judge them. because by that point you realize that they don't fit in some neat stereotypical box that our lovely society thinks we all belong in. i don't really have any advice other than don't let jerks determine what you want to write. just keep doing it.

12:46 AM  
Blogger J.T. MITCHUM said...

Hello from your friendly University of Kansas journalism student.

This post about convergence and interviews is very revealing to the problems our 'class' of journalism students will run up against. The battle-proven editors and producers across the table from fresh-faced Web saavy journalism students seem to contort their faces upon the utterance of 'convergence' or 'blogging'.

For a personal account, you should hop over to Amanda Kim Stairrett's blog where she talks about some of her interviews.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Graeme Moore said...

Hey Shana:

It's Graeme. I was perusing when I ran across an internship that looked like it might interest you--hence this post. Nothing spectacular, but thought I'd pass it along.

Sorry, but I couldn't figure out how to put the damn link in.
For now,

2:43 AM  

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