May 1st, 2007 12:49 EST
Reporter John Fritze speaks to help students gauge future
The other day I attended a lecture by John Fritze, city government reporter for the Baltimore Sun. He previously worked for the Indianapolis Star where he reported on city hall. His degrees came from New York University and Columbia University. He started off by explaining that journalism is very hard work and right now is a hard time for journalists to find work since more news is popping up online and journalists are getting laid off. He explained that it is not impossible to get a job, but there are a few things that might help.
There were two major things he discussed as being incredibly important and they go hand in hand: internships and networking. He spoke about the many internships he had in the past. He stressed that a successful intern is one who is willing to work long hours and perform menial tasks but also speak up for themselves if they are not getting to write at all. Internships are also where to make good contacts. Fritze believes that clips and resumes alone will almost never produce a job. “Schmoozing” is not necessary but keeping business cards of people who may potentially be able to help down the line is key. Flattery was also mentioned as a helpful tool in the networking game. Things like asking for advice or asking to have lunch with a contact is always a good idea.
Fritze also spoke about informational interviews, something I had not heard of before. This is a process of calling a place of business and asking if you may visit them, look around, and meet people. Another bit of advice from Fritze was to develop a skill other than journalism: Spanish, computer software skills, accounting. He seemed to regret only studying journalism.
As far as the technical aspects of the interview, Fritze said cover letters should be interesting and suggested telling a story. Opening lines are key since interviewers usually never get past the first few lines. Clips are important and should be tailored to the job you are applying for. He suggested that each clip have a small explanation of why you picked that clip to send. A resume should be only one page with work experience at the top and education at the bottom. If your objective sounds good, use it. If it sounds like a fake, don’t use one at all.
At the actual interview, Fritze’s main piece of advice is to ask questions! The more you ask questions, the less you have to talk and the more you can learn. If you are offered a job, take some time to think about it and don’t settle for less than what you need. Don’t get bullied but don’t be a jerk. Research how much others in the newsroom are making and, if you can, look at any union contracts you can find. Once you land a job, you should stay there at least two years or until you get a good body of work to show. “Always keep your options open,” said Fritze. There is no need to be sneaky or secretive about putting in resumes other places.
A few other tips Fritze has learned to be helpful are to keep a roll-a-dex, read the paper closely, check on sources, don’t surprise people with your stories, talk to common citizens, and request records and documents regularly to keep people accountable.
I really enjoyed listening to Fritze and what he had to say. It is always good to hear from someone who is actually working in the field and I felt as though he was very truthful and did not try to sugar-coat anything. What he said was real and to the point, and I’m sure will be very helpful to me in the future only if I remember a few things he said.