Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Don't Go Burning Bridges

When I worked in New York one of my co-workers constantly reminded us that she was not there to make friends. As a result she sat in front of her computer from the moment she got in until 4pm rolled around and she got to go home. She ate at her desk, always had her headphones in, and occasionally had a whispered phone conversation. I sat right next to her and we barely ever interacted.

To be fair she was a great editor but it always bugged me that she never wanted to talk socially or even eat lunch together. Not that I was looking for a BFF, but some kind of interaction with the person next to you at work would have been nice. At the time, I thought she was driven and passionate about her job, leading her to shun others and focus on the words in front of her.

Now, I think she did herself a HUGE disservice.

If I've learned anything in the last couple weeks as I look around for additional freelance gigs to fill my time, it's to never burn bridges. The majority of people I have reached out to and had a real conversation with have been friends and acquaintances from previous jobs or social environments. I've talked with a few former co-workers, as well as a high school classmate and a couple people who went to Marquette with me.

If I had gone into each job and social setting with a mind to just get the job done I would never have been able to talk with these people today. So, my advice to the college students reading this and others trying to make it in the freelancing world: Make connections, create links, build contacts. Don't burn bridges. Journalism is a small, small world. If you make enemies or neglect to make friends you are pretty likely to run into those same people at another point down the road.

Not to mention, since we are social beings it is healthy and right to build relationships with those around us... but that's a whole other topic.

Monday, March 15, 2010

How is a journalist like a blacksmith?

This weekend I had a long conversation with my dad, during which he told me that unfortunately I picked the wrong career. Journalism is dying. He’d been reading a couple business blogs lately that mentioned the changing face of journalism and the dire situation we are facing.

He told me, “Kate, I see journalism like the blacksmith profession. Sure there are still horse in need of shoes, but they are few and far between.” To him journalists are a diminishing breed, set to be nearly distinct except in some choice parts of the country.

I’ve given this analogy a lot of thought over the last three days and I’ve reached two conclusions. He’s right and he’s dead wrong. (At this point he’ll grin and shake his head at me.)

He’s right: Old-school journalists, the ones who pounded the pavement and worked for weeks to get a big juicy story, are shrinking in numbers. Thanks to the internet, the immediacy of news, free sites, blogs and citizen journalism there isn’t a large demand for strong, in-depth, well-written analysis pieces. These old-school journalists are the blacksmiths of today – few and far between.

He’s dead wrong: New media is unchartered territory. It’s the wild-west of today. And when the Wild West was first being tamed blacksmiths were in high demand, after all those cowboys needed their horses. New journalists, the ones who can adjust to the changing media models and write fast solid copy, are in high demand. Yes, citizen journalism and the idea that anybody and everybody has writing talent is polluting the waters. But those of us traditionally trained bring a concept of ethics, an appreciation for well-written copy and our love for the written world to the world of new media.

So, to his suggestion I become a nurse… I’m thinking more along the lines of pursuing new media more doggedly. Darwin had one solid idea… survival of the fittest is based on those that are best able to adapt to their surroundings. I’m adapting. Journalism is evolving. Blacksmith or not… I’m in it for the long haul because even after 10 years of seeing clips published I still love seeing my name in the byline slot. And for some reason I can write.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Beginning Again

The world of freelancing is constantly a lesson in beginning again, and again, and again. It seems fate has me primed to take that 'from scratch' journey again. Due to a number of factors the amazing gig that I have had for the last 12 months no longer needed my services. Ouch - to say the least.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit when I found out I spent the entire day in a state of dazed panic. So many thoughts ran through my head... wait a second they liked my work, it seemed so secure the week before, shit I need to pay my taxes, my dad's going to flip, another job come and gone, oh no I've got two student loan bills and my phone bill sitting on my desk, thank God I still have a couple smaller gigs.

After the first day of confusion, I decided two things. One: Things happen for a reason. Two: I'm not going to sit back and hope good things just role my way.

The things happen for a reason was proved utterly true when I headed home that weekend to visit with my family. The trip had been planned well in advance and while it had nothing to do with my nearly jobless state it was a welcome break. The day I arrived home, my grandmother was put on hospice care. Five days later she passed away. If I hadn't lost my main freelancing gig I would not have been able to stay in Chicago to help my mom drive my siblings to soccer practice, make their packed lunches, do laundry, clean the house, take out the dogs, etc... So things happen for a reason.

I'm jumping to it again... I've reached out to fellow writers, former colleagues and college alums, as well as former clients. Just getting my name out there is going to help. Plus, I just got some great advice on how to better my MS, so I'll be taking advantage of this downtime to re-order, re-write and then re-submit by book.