Yesterday, I spent the morning at Marcus
Whitman Junior High School‘s annual career fair. The gym was
full of folks representing a range of professions: machinists,
attorneys, animal control workers, a member of the county coroner’s
staff, restaurant owners, medical personnel. It was our job to give
the students a glimpse into the future and imagine themselves in
Seeing them streaming into the gym reminded me what it was like
to be in their shoes, drifting in that limbo stage between
childhood and adulthood, trying to fit in while standing out. A few
had that deer-in-the-headlights stare. Like, “Oh, man, I’m actually
going to have to get a job someday.” Some knew exactly what they
wanted to do … to the point they’d crossed all other possibilities
off the list. The vast majority of them, however, were open-minded,
politely but genuinely interested in prospect of being a
journalist, at least for a minute or two.
I thought, what do I tell them about our industry, which has
thousands of journalists laid off and hundreds of publications
shuttered? Should I encourage these young people to invest
their money, time and energy training for a career that may not
exist as we know it by the time they’re out of school? It wouldn’t
quite have been in the spirit of things to say, “Run!” So I told
them the truth about journalism, at least as see it from my desk at
the Kitsap Sun, a daily
newspaper/Web site, published in Bremerton, Wash., circa 2010.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions, and how I
Where do you get your story ideas?
We monitor state and local government Web sites and other Web sites
for developments in and around Kitsap County. We stay in contact
with sources with whom we’ve established relationships and use
social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to keep up with
what’s going on. We receive e-mails and phones calls from readers
and others about news or human interest stories. And sometimes, we
get ideas that strike our fancy, like the story I wrote on the
Mattress Ranch guy.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Writing the first sentence of any story.
What educational classes do I need to take to become a
Don’t wait to complete your degree to start writing. Sign up for
the high school newspaper or year book. Take journalism,
photography and videography classes (South Kitsap
High School has a great video production program). Write as
often as you can, and be open to constructive criticism. Pick a
topic that interests you and start a blog.
How successful are students who major in journalism at getting a
This wasn’t a frequently asked question, but I thought it was a
great question. I couldn’t speak to current statistics, but I can
say that the job market for journalists remains tight. Journalists
today are required to wear many hats, so successful applicants will
be ready to demonstrate versatility and innovation. Here at the
Kitsap Sun, we reporters now not only write stories, but shoot
videos and, in a pinch, take simple photographs.
With migration to the Internet, reporting the news is shifting
from a series of static episodes to a fluid, quickly shifting
landscape of information. News Web sites not only report news,
sports, features and opinion pieces (as in the print paper), they
serve as an online community forum. Readers can comment on stories
and blogs, submit their own pictures and videos, and write their
own blogs. In that was were are becoming a virtual community.
The Kitsap Sun will continue to publish the print edition of the
paper. At the same time, our Web site is evolving rapidly. Both
serve different, valid purposes. By the time these Marcus Whitman
students graduate from college, it’s likely there will be jobs that
don’t even exist (at least as separate jobs) right now. The titles
“data base wrangler,” and “news cartographer” come to mind, for
To the student in the Twilight T-shirt who said she likes to
write fantasy stories I said:
Hold that thought, keep writing and send your stories out to
fiction publications as often as possible. At the same time,
consider how you’ll earn a paycheck while waiting to become the
next Stephenie Meyer.
To guy who wants to be a sports writer but wasn’t sure how he’d
do it since he plays sports year ’round:
Cover the girls’ games.
I loved his reaction, at first, stunned silence, then a little
ah-ha moment, then a slow sideways grin. They can be taught.
Is your job, like boring?
Yes, sometimes. Welcome to the real world.
Is your job stressful?
Yes, often. Welcome to the world of journalism.
Have you ever interviewed a celebrity?
I tried to tell them about Loretta Swit, aka
“Hot-Lips Hoolahan,” who was in town a few years ago
promoting her personal cosmetic line to a group of women. She
gave me a mini-makeover in front of the group, but it didn’t take.
The students were clueless about the significance of this story.
They got the connection to M*A*S*H* after I primed their little
neuron pumps, but they were unimpressed with Swit.
Debbie Macomber? Isn’t she that author lady? I think my mom
reads her books.
Delilah? The South Kitsap resident and radio personality with
millions of fans on the airwaves? No, never heard of her.
Seriously, next time Death Cab comes to town I’m
on it. Just maybe they’ll know who Ben Gibbard
Do you like your job?
Yes, unequivocally. Stress turned inside out is excitement, and
this job is frequently exciting. I’m not just talking about
breaking news here, but also about how much fun it is not to know
exactly what I’ll be doing each day when I walk in the door. Oh,
sure, I have a plan, but often circumstances shift me to another
track. We’re a small staff so I get to write news, features, Code
911 items and pretty much whatever comes along. I enjoy the
variety, and I’m always amazed at how people allow me into their
lives, often at deeply painful moments.
I also like the folks I work with, and I’m not just sucking up
because I’m stuck with them. Over the past three years, it has
sometimes seemed as if we were bailing out a leaky dingy while
building the Titanic. We got this far though teamwork (and
sometimes wacky outbursts of humor). Call me a terminal optimist,
but I believe I’m not alone in saying things are looking up for the
Kitsap Sun. It’s a work in progress. I can’t wait to see how it
turns out, and I sure hope there will be someone to pick up where
we leave off.