Thursday, September 08, 2005

Meet the Editor

I had an interview last week at the second largest paper in Idaho for an entry level reporter. I obtained it by e-mail responding to a prickly ad on journalism I looked up the editor's e-mail address and fired off my resume and clips. I got a response, and later in the week told I made the short list, and arranged an interview for the following week. I went, driving 150 miles after a week of work surveying streams, for the Friday afternoon meeting.

I passed the faded facade of the building thinking it abandoned, but pinned it down just in time to be five minutes early. The city editor was nice and soon the managing editor came in with questions in tow: favorite book-Coming into the Country; TV show- 7 days (which I was in and drawing a blank after saying I watch news shows); movie-A River Runs through It; magazine-Outside, (should have said New Yorker since I read it), and so on.

"Newspapers like ours are losing readership nationwide. This is who we write for," he said, pointing to a cardboard cutout of a thirty-something brunette with two kids that resembled my last recollection of Lindsey Wagner.

Really I thought desperately trying to grasp what he wanted.

"She's really busy, and only wants the pertinent facts, delivered so she can absorb them during her busy day ferrying kids to dental appointments, school and soccer practice. Can you write for her so she doesn't go away?"

"I don't see why not, but I can't say for sure what that is," I said trying to be honest. No memorable comment but notes taken.

"I'm not afraid of nontraditional hires," he said.

"He makes them all the time," said the city editor trying to be supportive of my unfortunate age bracket.

Yeah, I'm sure some young dimwit is more adept at handling Lindsey's literary needs I thought.

Soon, after positive responses about my current work measuring rocks and fish as a scientist for the BLM, writing an essay about Hemingway, two books, and John McPhee as a role model, I was shown to a cubicle with a computer. Happily it wasn't an Apple. The city editor gave me a press release for a story they hadn't had time for what with the shortage of reporters and all of late. Pretend it's real, I was told. Call sources and write the story.

"OK," I said, and off I went calling three sources, penning a quick lead and folding in the quotes. "I'm done," I told her after an hour in which I met reporters coming to call all during this process telling me of the beats they didn't want that I could take off their hands.

"Really!" she said exremely pleased."Come on over we're having our budget meeting."
"Great," I said.

I went to the story budget meeting in which my story was factored in a priori to editing. Cool I thought.

After three edits it was a done deal. I was released and signed a voucher to be paid $50 for my efforts.

"We don't want you to think we're cheap," the Managing Editor said in full CYA mode.
I grinned, looking at the others and said, "He just doesn't want me to blog it," trying to be real.

"When will I know?" I asked.

"By the end of next week."

"Most people don't like going right to work like that," he said. "Thanks for doing it, it gives me a good idea of what to expect."

"It's a bit of a surprise," I said, "but why not dive right on in?"

The story made the morning paper and I never heard a word in a week.

That's the verdict. Don't let anyone say age isn't a factor in employment. You may not be able to prove intent legally, but it's always the reason for non-selection.


Blogger OutInLeftField said...

If it makes you feel any better, the young ones straight out of school aren't given much of a chance either (said with lots of experience to back it up). The only reason I have my job right now is through connections I made during an internship. Most of my friends that graduated with me are in the same boat, and none of us have a perm, full-time position. We're all part-time, on contract, casual, etc.

(I just came upon your blog through sheer boredom, I'm not a wonderful advertiser trying to sell confetti or belts or something)

8:23 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Well I'm happy to help you with that boredom factor. The market is tough and connections are critical. One can only have so much experience at being young, so if you landed a job after an internship, then you make my point. If your slacker friends can't find work, and I suspect they outnumber the competent ones, they can't hang age and experience as a reason for nonselection. The loser bin is by far the largest group in America today.

Do you work for a newspaper?

7:11 AM  
Blogger rick tennebaum said...

I dont think age has anything to do with it. There simply seems more applicants for every job i go for.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Well that's a truism sure, but the young guy or gal will get the final nod given the the multitude choices. They don't want anyone needing healthcare and middle aged people are less flexible and can't be pushed as hard.

4:26 PM  
Blogger OutInLeftField said...

I work for a radio station in Canada. (Sorry for the late reply, I haven't been able to blog surf much lately!)

6:01 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

At least you have healthcare. Media companies provide it should one be hired and one more nail in my coffin: They don't want anyone eho may need it.

6:53 AM  

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