Scott Jaschik gave a great talk Friday at Cornell. The co-founder of InsideHigherEd has been causing some waves in the world of HigherEd coverage. My notes after the jump.
On getting ready for the field:
- Like Keefer, he suggested skipping out on J-School. He made an exception for people without clips.
- If you take an editorial assistantship job, promise yourself you'll quit after 18 months.
- Write for the campus newspaper.
- It's well worth it to take an unpaid internship and bus tables (good news for me).
- Get some informal or formal study of libel law.
- Editorial internships are great for contacts and you'll work near quality people.
- On the flip side, they rarely lead directly to jobs.
- Small papers give good experience, but you have to go into it knowing what you want to learn.
- Look for good editors to push you as a writer.
His main complaints against journalism schools are that they teach public relations rather than reporting and create fake publications, instead of getting students experience and clips in the wild. He added that, in reality, most J-School’s aren’t even particularly good with job placement.
When you start writing:<ul>
Develop an expertise in fields: that's what editors want.
Pay is inverse to the size (importance) of the story.
For freelancers, constantly pitch stories.
Be flexible: he talked about how he had to learn to raise money and run as business as he started up InsideHigherEd.</ul>
Where to work:
As usual, I asked him about blogs and their place in the newsroom. He compared them to conversation a cocktail party: fun and potentially very useful, but always a bit dubious and more than a bit slanted. He said that what the WashPost has been experimenting with isn't blogging. For Jaschik, blogs are independent, uncensored, and personal. These pretty much make them incompatible with a news room. Instead, the Post is just putting up short articles in a blog-like format. Jaschik added that this has caused some tension, as writers expect to get paid for these as the Post is looking to cut costs.
I asked him what he most looked for in an applicant. His answer? The applicant has to be: He recounted the story of one applicant who stayed up all night to snap pictures of a security guard falling asleep on duty for an investigative story. It reminded me of my "Creeper Catcher" days with Guess et al.
He also said standing out was a good thing, and cover letters should stress unusual qualities. Editors love impact, so show them you made a difference.
Also, they want to know if you can function off campus, so city beat stories are a big plus.
- Places with good growth
- Quality of big names
- Alums at small daily newspapers are "uniformly miserable."
- Specialized pubs doing better in business then the city dailies (but then again, who isn't?)
- "There are a lot of bad jobs ... and there are a lot of people vying for bad jobs."
- Become a perfectionist.
- Show innovation, dedication, hard work and influential stories.
- Add a clip cover letter giving 1 sentence background.
- Offer "more clips available of any type on request."