Sunday, November 9, 2014

The job you'll have doesn't exist yet. Here's how to get it.

A fun story this weekend in the New York Times about the Denver Post marijuana critic Jake Browne. No, really. This is a thing. Here's the takeaway:
Mr. Browne, 31, is the first marijuana critic for the newspaper — which means he is paid to smoke and review pot.
And, over at Vice,  another writer covers the "Weediquette" beat. 

The Denver Post also has a marijuana editor, Ricardo Baca, who not only covers the weedy waterfront, but also produces a newsletter on the topic called The Cannabist.  

Now you could argue that this is one more nail in the coffin of journalism of substance. But Colorado is one of two states that is engaged in a grand experiment: legal marijuana. This has spawned phenomenon like "weed weddings" and cannabis tours. 

And reports like this one. 

Also, social ills, as this Redditor pointed out in a recent post asking Colorado Redditors about the negative aspects of marijuana legalization.
[–]zbobet2012 818 points  
Here is one that most people don't think about, or bring up, but working in downtown I see quite often. Homelessness is up. No really, there is a significant number of young homeless people who moved to Denver for the legal weed.
The local homeless person population in Denver was a lot of really down and out people. A city with frequent sub 0 (f) (-18c) nights isn't a great place to be homeless. Since the legalization though I see a lot of people begging who easily fit into the "drifter" category, though with winter starting to come on strong some have started to move on.
 So there's a lot to write about pot in Colorado.


And it turns out that there's a job for someone who knows both the finer points of pot consumption AND AP Style. This, from Baca's blog:

I remember the day I hired Jake Browne as The Cannabist’s first-ever pot critic. We met for coffee at a downtown coffeehouse, and we talked weed and business and comedy and even AP style.
It was clear from the start: Jake was the guy. And he still is the guy, as readers of The New York Times will soon find out. The Times’ profile on Browne — err, Mr. Browne — “The Life of a Pot Critic: Clean, With Citrus Notes,” will run in print on Sunday — but it’s online now.
“Mr. Browne also has a biological gift of sorts: He is a supertaster,” the article reads. “That is, somebody who possesses more taste buds than the average person (at least according to an online survey he took).”
Jake Browne's job is one example of the new opportunities on the journalistic landscape.

Here's another one: Dan Peltier, who graduated in 2014, knew he wanted to get into travel writing. I told him in fall of his senior year: there are no jobs for travel writers. But I pointed him to a new startup called Skift, which covers the travel business. He started following the founder Rafat Ali on Twitter, and got an interview with him for my Entrepreneurial Journalism class. He kept up communication with Ali over the school year via social media, and, long story short, he's now working in New York for the site. Here are some of his posts. 

Here's my mantra:  

The job you want may soon be gone. The job you will have doesn't exist yet.

Whoa. So how do you find that gig? You plug into the industry you want to work in, build your transferable skills (good writer, easy to work with) and add the tech skills that are emerging and needed in that field, whether it's gaming, fashion, or news. Some tips: 

Bring your A-Game in everything you do.
You'll never become a good writer, journalist, or anything if just do the work in classes. You need to practice all the time and take feedback to make your work better. Study the people who have done what you want to do.  Brian Stelter, who now works for CNN, started his own blog, TVNewser while he was still in college. He covered the heck out of television news and got noticed. He also wrote 500 articles for his college paper. How many have you written? How hard are you actually working toward the job you want?

Learn everything you can about the industry or area you want to work in. And keep up.
I get a lot of women in my classes who want to be fashion writers who have never heard of Bill Cunningham. HOW CAN THIS POSSIBLY BE? This guy is the bomb and everyone thanks me for introducing him. Now I know what you're thinking: Oh, he's old school, I want to do something fresh. But listen, the guy's 85 and still producing some of the most interesting fashion stuff, right from the streets of New York City and Paris. Not a bad career run. You can learn a lot by watching the masters at work.



And it's just so easy to connect and learn about the business now, via the web and social media. Start by reading the sites in the right hand column of this page. Did you know that many companies are only posting their jobs on Twitter? This makes sense when you think about it. Who wants to hire someone who isn't interested in your company?

Become a leader in campus media.
Leadership isn't just about collecting a title for your resume. It means moving an organization forward toward some common goals. If you can do this, you'll have something good to talk about in job interviews. It means solving problems, not creating them. Not taking all the good assignments yourself. Having people be happy they're a part of your organization. Helping people become better at what they do. Leaving the place better than when you found it. Key skills: smarts, self-awareness, time management, public speaking, creativity,  a pro-active attitude. Do you have them? Do you want them?  If so, come join amherstwire.com.

Build a digital-first portfolio and build your tech skills.
We can give you some training, but new things are always coming down the stream, but  you need to start paddling yourself. (Do you know about MEDIUM?  GitHub?) Try to learn one new platform or piece of software each month. (Have you got a pressfolios site yet?) You can use Atomic Learning and Safari Books Online on the DuBois Library Database. Take Entrepreneurial Journalism (JOURN 383) in the fall (shameless plug), we do all of this and more. 

Network, network, network.
Do those internships. As many as you can. Attend Career Services events on campus. Go to alumni gatherings in your town. Find companies or media organizations you love and ask for an informational interview. Talk to friends of your dad about your career. Join groups on LinkedIn.

Don't forget that AP Style guide.
Despite all the changes in the business, you still need to be thoroughly grounded in the basics. Even a pot critic needs to know his AP Style. Every industry has its standards and this is the one for journalism. Consistency in editorial style makes things easier if you're self-publishing as well.

Raz and I fight about AP Style on a regular basis. The conversation goes a little like this: 

Raz: "It's an imperialist construct that seeks to neuter the language!"

Me: "When you're running a publication, you need something to bring consistency across the enterprise and it's still more liberal than New York Times style! They just barely started using the term 'Ms.'!"

What's your opinion? Learn the book and then we'll talk. 

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