Careers in Journalism [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Jan Goldberg
eBook Category: Business
eBook Description: Careers in Journalism offers all the information career seekers need to explore and choose a profession and then narrow it down to a job that suits them. The book provides an overview of the field of art, outlines job options, and shows how to plan and prepare for a career.
eBook Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies/VGM Career Books, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2002
IS JOURNALISM FOR YOU?
The power of words is immense. A well-chosen word has often sufficed to stop a flying army, to change defeat into victory, and to save an empire.
Did you know that when Mark Twain wrote of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and their joys and tribulations along the Mississippi, he intimately knew what he was talking about? Twain, born Samuel Clemens, grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Signing on as an apprentice to a steamboat pilot, he spent almost four years on the Mississippi. After 1859 he even served as a licensed pilot, but this was forcibly ended by the Civil War. "Mark Twain" was actually "born" on February 3, 1863, when Clemens used that pseudonym to sign a humorous travel account. The name referred to a riverman's term for water "two fathoms deep" and thus just barely safe for navigation.
Did you know that Samuel Dashiell Hammett was the American writer who helped to create the "hard-boiled" school of detective fiction? Leaving school at age 13, he worked at a variety of low-paying jobs before putting in eight years as a detective for the Pinkerton agency. Subsequently, he began to publish short stories, novellas in magazines, and two novels, Red Harvest and The Dain Curse (both in 1929) before writing The Maltese Falcon in 1930. This is the book that introduced the character Sam Spade, Hammett's famous fictional detective. Later, Hammett wrote The Thin Man, which provided the basis for a series of motion pictures built around his detective couple Nick and Nora Charles. The character Nora was based upon the real-life playwright Lillian Hellman, with whom Hammett was romantically involved.
"Words once printed assume a life of their own."
WHY DO INDIVIDUALS ENTER THE WORLD OF JOURNALISM?
Journalists are often people, like Twain and Hammett, who feel they have a story that they wish to share, one that is close to their hearts and drawn from their own experiences. In contrast, some people are drawn to it because their innate curiosity takes them there. They seek answers and are fascinated by questions like: What is the largest planet? Who won the most Oscars? Where can you find diamonds? Who was the youngest president? Which mountain is the steepest? Who is working on a cure for juvenile diabetes? Which is the smallest continent? Do animals blink? Who is the most decorated hero? Why do we turn black and blue when we injure ourselves?
As Russell Freedman, a well-known children's book author says, "I choose a topic because I want to learn more about that subject myself." In so doing, authors bring the readers right along with them.
"Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind."
A PLETHORA OF POSSIBILITIES
Journalism* (*The author acknowledges that there are varying definitions of the word journalism. In its strictest sense, the word refers only to the newspaper and, perhaps, magazine industries. For the purposes of this book, however, journalism is interpreted in its broadest sense to include all the careers that an individual with a love for words and the expression of ideas may explore.) can take many forms, thus offering a wide variety of opportunities to those with a fascination for language and a thirst for enlightenment.
The World of Newspaper Publishing
Many journalists choose careers in newspaper publishing and may seek a variety of positions. Depending on the size of the newspaper, they may serve as assistant editors, associate editors, senior editors, editors in chief, specialty editors, columnists, syndicated columnists, investigative journalists, feature writers, editorial writers, reporters, correspondents, photojournalists, editorial cartoonists, copyeditors, or proofreaders.
The World of Magazine Publishing
Magazine publishing is another huge communications medium that regularly employs large numbers of journalists. These publications operate similarly to newspapers in that they usually maintain a hierarchy of editors, including managing editors, executive editors, associate editors, assistant editors, department editors, editorial assistants, feature writers, article authors, columnists, copyeditors, and proofreaders.
Freelance writers are often contracted to provide feature and column articles for both newspapers and magazines.
The World of Book Publishing
In the book publishing industry, journalists may serve as editors of either hardbound or paperback books at varying levels of title and responsibility. They may also serve as assistants, copyeditors, and proofreaders.
Freelance writers, working under contract, are usually the authors of the books that the publishing company produces. This includes nonfiction and fiction authors who may choose to write for a juvenile or adult audience in a variety of genres, including science fiction, horror, romance, or mystery.
A large segment of the book industry is involved in elementary, secondary, or college textbook publishing, and in this area journalists usually work as part of a team of individuals, which includes writers, editors, copywriters, and proofreaders who take a book from a concept or idea to a finished manuscript.
The World of Electronic Publishing
Television and radio provide additional potential sources of employment for journalists who enjoy appearing in front of a camera or providing behind-the-scenes backup. Broadcast journalists (reporters); anchors; editors at various levels; sportscasters; newscasters or announcers; and television, cable, video, and radio scriptwriters all contribute to the smooth operation of television and radio broadcasting.
The ever-expanding world of computers, the Internet, and websites has brought a whole new area of opportunity for journalists who wish to make the jump to electronic publishing. A wide variety of positions are now available. They include (among others), on-line editors, on-line producers, Web-page masters, on-line magazine and newspaper editors, electronic-game designers, CD-ROM editors, and educational software editors.
In the technical areas, journalists often create instructional sheets, directions, and manuals that enable nonprofessionals to understand how to operate sophisticated technical equipment and to better understand technical concepts. Thus, journalists with a strong understanding of the world of computers will no doubt have ample opportunities to create software or write about issues relating to computers and software. Other options include writing about scientific, mathematical, agricultural, medical, or engineering issues for newspapers or specialty or general consumer magazines; writing books; or authoring speeches or news releases of a scientific nature.
For those who enjoy working with children, young adults, or adults, and who delight in passing their wisdom and methods on to others, careers in teaching are attractive. Journalism, communications, English, and creative writing classes, seminars, workshops, and correspondence programs are offered at high school, junior college, undergraduate, and advanced degree levels. This opens up the possibility of a career in journalism through teaching at any of these levels.
The World of Business Writing
The area of business writing offers a lucrative and prolific career for many journalists. Companies and corporations, clubs, nonprofit organizations, and a multitude of other groups employ journalists to write articles, sales letters, brochures, newsletters, employee manuals, business reports, and direct-mail projects. Many journalists also enter related fields, such as public relations or advertising.
Additional Journalistic Careers
Rounding out the list of diverse journalistic possibilities are careers in speech writing, poetry, songwriting, ghostwriting, freelance writing, book reviewing, comedy writing, playwriting, and screen writing. Opportunities also exist for literary agents. Here's another thought: If solving riddles is your passion, consider a career as a crossword puzzle editor!
"Words are loaded pistols."
"Words are the voice of the heart."
Is journalism right for you? If so, what area of journalism would be best for you? Take the following quiz and you'll find out.
1. How much time and money will I be able to devote to preparing myself for a career in journalism? (Some careers require more education and training than others.)
2. Am I willing to work my way up from an entry-level starting position?
3. Do I enjoy working with people or am I happier working alone?
4. What are my salary goals?
5. Do I enjoy work that puts me "on the edge" or am I more comfortable in a "safe" environment?
6. Am I satisfied performing work that is repetitive or do I become bored easily?
7. Do I need the usual assurances given to a full-time hired employee or am I more excited at the prospect of being self-employed?
8. How well do I work under stress? Am I able to deal well with deadlines?
9. Do I want a nine-to-five job or am I willing to work longer, perhaps erratic hours?
10. Am I willing to relocate (perhaps several times) in order to advance my career?
Take your answers and read on to find the ideal journalism career for you. The text and the interviews will provide much for you to think about.
What is your heart saying?
VIEWING JOURNALISM IN HISTORICAL TERMS
The history of the past interests us only so far as it illuminates the history of the present.
Our forefathers traveled to the New World and instituted changes that left us the legacy of a free press and the right to free speech. Leaving nothing to chance, they drafted the U.S. Constitution's first amendment to read, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Thus, the principles of free press and free speech became part of the American heritage through the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791.
Similarly, in 1982, a Canadian Constitution guaranteed to Canadians "the liberties of an open society with a free and vigorous press." This document confirmed in writing what had long been a tradition in Canada.
But freedom of the press did not always exist and still is absent in many areas of the world today. The delegates who drafted the Constitution remembered how the injustices of the British Crown had been revealed to the public through the press and how the press had stirred revolutionary feelings in the colonists. They realized that the press was at least partially responsible for arousing enough intensity and emotion to prompt the colonists to take action.
One statesman who understood the importance of a free press was Thomas Jefferson. In 1787, he wrote to his friend, Carrington:
I am persuaded that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves. The people are the only censors of their governors; and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people, is to give them full information of their affairs through the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, l should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
Today, North American newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television, films, and other communications media flourish with the freedom to provide whatever news and information is deemed appropriate by writers and editors. Thus, the work of a journalist is firmly rooted in history.
LET'S START AT THE BEGINNING
Without question, the invention of the printing press brought about profound and far-reaching changes in the course of history. Many regard it as one of the most significant inventions of all time. Certainly its birth provided an opportunity to offer education and literacy to the masses. Without it, there could have been no Industrial Revolution, and we would not be experiencing the electronic revolution and Information Age of today.
Although there is no historical certainty, most authorities credit a German, Johannes Gutenberg, with inventing the printing press. His Gutenberg Bible, which appeared in about 1454, is traditionally recognized as the very first book printed using movable type. From Germany, printing spread to other countries, namely France, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland. It was introduced to England by William Caxton, a native of Kent. As England's first printer, he is remembered for publishing some of the major literature of the time. During a 15-year period, he produced approximately 100 volumes. In contrast to many printers in other countries who used only Latin, Caxton published all of his material in his native language, English.
ONLY IN AMERICA
America saw its first printing press about 200 years later in 1638. Reverend Jesse Glover was responsible for its transfer from England and its establishment in the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Cambridge. His associate, Stephen Daye, and his son, Matthew, set up the printing press at Harvard College after Glover died during the journey from England. The Dayes' first printed work was called Freeman's Oath. In 1640, they produced their first book, the Bay Psalm Book.
In the New World, most presses published both books and newspapers. The first American newspaper was produced by Benjamin Harris in 1690 in Boston. Called Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, the paper survived only one day before it was closed by the British government. Harris, who had fled England because the stories he printed there created such a stir, was told he must stop printing in America because he had no license. Though this was true, it is likely that his real transgression was printing an article that was offensive to the king of France, the colonies' longtime ally.
After Harris's 98 aborted newspaper attempt, it was 14 years before a second newspaper was published in the colonies. Postmaster John Campbell produced the Boston News-Letter in 1704 and continued without competition for 15 years. Since he was loyal to the Crown, he was allowed to publish his newspaper undisturbed.
Colonial newspapers were disorganized and limited in circulation. This is not surprising since the first newspaper publishers were really printers rather than editors. They were not educated men and certainly not journalists as we interpret the word now. Many understood what was important to people, but only a handful had the instincts of a reporter. Also, their access to news was severely limited by poor transportation and communication devices. Most didn't even make an attempt to seek out items of news interest and were satisfied to write about things they happened upon. None employed local reporters, even during the Revolutionary War when only papers nearest the scene of an event would cover a story. After that, other publications copied the piece or included reprinted official announcements, military or governmental correspondence, or information from travelers.
An individual who did show some writing ability was an early editor and printer named James Franklin. He was the publisher of the third colonial newspaper, the New England Courant, which debuted in 1721. Clearly better than his competition, Franklin provided a readable and interesting product. His newspaper included human interest articles, personality sketches, literate feature stories, and articles signed "Silence Dogood" (a pen name used by Franklin's brother Benjamin). By publishing articles critical of the British Crown, Franklin's outspoken nature made him the first to challenge the rigid licensing system that controlled the colonial press. It was Franklin who established the press as an instrument that could clearly both ref lect and inf luence popular opinion. As a result of his criticism, he was imprisoned. While he was there, his brother Benjamin assumed the position of editor of the New England Courant. Benjamin was a talented writer whose work was informative and entertaining. Unfortunately, Benjamin's success caused dissention among the brothers, prompting Benjamin to move to New York.
In 1729, Benjamin Franklin established a new paper in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Gazette. Almost immediately, it became a success. This publication and The American Weekly Mercury published by Andrew Bradford were the first newspapers to appear outside New England.
In 1733, Bradford's former assistant, John Peter Zenger, founded the New York Weekly Journal. Since the paper was heavily procolonist and anti-Crown, it was very popular in America but quite a thorn in the side of the British colonial leaders, particularly Governor William Cosby. Several factors, including the fact that Zenger criticized Governor Cosby for permitting French naval units to settle in New York Harbor, prompted Cosby to initiate proceedings against Zenger. In November of 1734, he was arrested and charged with criminal libel. While he spent months in jail, his wife continued to print the paper.
Zenger was ably defended by octogenarian Andrew Hamilton, a famous Philadelphia lawyer who offered his services. Basing his defense on the premise of a free press, Hamilton argued that Zenger could not be guilty unless what he stated in print was actually libelous. That would mean that the words themselves must include malicious or seditious (inciting rebellion against a government) falsehoods. Prior to this trial, guilt was based on the printing of any seditious statement, whether it was true or false. The jury found Zenger not guilty, and the chief justice did not intervene by setting aside the verdict, even though he had the power to do so. It was a great moral victory for Hamilton and established a principle that is still in effect today. Libel only exists when falsehoods are perpetrated; the truth can never be libelous.
In Canada, as a colony of the centralized Bourbon French monarchy, New France was not permitted a printing press until 1760. In the wake of the British expedition to found Halifax, printing came to Nova Scotia in 1751 and to Quebec in 1764, after the British conquest. The beginnings of journalism were largely ineffective due to the widespread illiteracy and limited circulations of publications. Just as in the 13 colonies, most journalists were publishers, editors, and printers all in one. Also, Canadian journalists could be arrested and publishers convicted of criminal or seditious libel for criticizing public officials.
Back in the colonies, the Stamp Act of 1765 was considered a real blow to the American free press since it put a substantial tax on paper used in producing newspapers and legal documents. Both journalists and lawyers were very offended by it, and as a result newspapers began to argue the philosophy of the Revolution.
One of the militant newspapers of the time was the Boston Gazette. Frequently published in this paper was Samuel Adams, a journalist who wrote tirelessly and prolifically with increasing hatred for the British. His stories included accounts of British soldiers beating children and raping young women (accusations denied by the British). Known as a propagandist for the Revolution, Adams is believed by many historians to be responsible for the British soldiers' attack that ultimately led to the Boston Massacre in 1770. Adams was called the "assassin of reputations" and "master of the puppets" by his adversaries. It is said that when important news was not present, he exaggerated minor incidents to make them look like major events.
Thomas Paine, the well-known political philosopher, came to the colonies in time to offer two printed contributions to the patriot cause. Common Sense, his well-known argument for independence aimed at the common man, sold 12,000 copies in the spring of 1776. In December of that year, Paine crafted the first of his Crisis papers when Washington's army was dejectedly positioned on the Delaware.
By 1775, the press had become increasingly partisan and screamed for a beginning to the war.
A NEW NATION
Journalistically speaking, the period after the Revolution was undistinguished although two types of newspapers were developing. One was printed in the towns along the seacoast primarily for shippers and traders. Included in these publications were articles concerning politics and commerce. They also contained advertising columns that reflected the business interests of their limited readership (about 2,000). The other type was politically partisan and was marked by the press's (often undeserved) targeting of high officials, such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington. In fact, besides Richard Nixon, George Washington's relationship with the press is considered one of the worst of any president.
From 1787 to 1788, Alexander Hamilton, the outstanding leader of the pro-Constitution party, coauthored the Federalist Papers for the newspapers of New York state. Subsequently, they were reprinted all over the country. A series of 85 articles, this work is considered one of the best political treatises ever written. Hamilton is also known for establishing the New York Post in 1801. It is the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in the United States.
In the early 1800s, individual papers changed their policies and began to go out and seek information to include in their publications. As early as 1808, correspondents were sent to Washington to report the news of the day. Representatives from the seaport newspapers met incoming ships to get a head start on foreign happenings. The leading New York mercantile papers, the Journal of Commerce and the Courier and Enquirer, set up pony express systems to "scoop" one another on congressional and presidential news.
By 1825, there were several hundred newspapers in America. In most cases, they were handled by subscriptions amounting to anywhere from six to ten dollars. Since these fees had to be paid in advance, only wealthy people were able to afford them.
Copyright © 2000 by VGM Career Books