Joe Blow's question

Dateline: Tue 28 Sep 2010

Here's what Mr. Blow wants to know:

" has a Pulliam fellowship opening at The Star. I am considering applying but wanted to get a candid assessment of the paper from you and your blog readers. Is it really a Gannett train wreck? If I wanted to put down roots at the paper and start a family in Indianapolis, would you encourage me or discourage me? I recognize that there's always an element of 'back in my day' from veterans. How much of that contributes to the bleak outlook at The Star? Are there younger reporters looking forward and trying to do good work? Is Ryerson really that bad? Are there people in the newsroom who respect him and enjoy working for him?

"This would be a big move for me and am looking for all the inside input I can get. My hope is that you post my query on your blog (which has made excellent and informative reading) .Maybe when the dust settles I can identify myself."

I retired from the Star in 2006, and I would say: go for it.

A job is a job, in this economy, and if you want to work at a newspaper, the Star is that. I think you'll find lots of inspiration and lots of cynicism in the newsroom (forget information center) -- nothing new there. You're young, you can get your feet wet. And yes, plenty of good people still work there; faith is alive.

Raising a family and putting down roots are other matters entirely. Not sure that newspapers are a wise career move for any real future. Journalism never paid well; I saw too many of the 30-somethings leave, with or without families, because they saw bleak days ahead. "No foundation, all the way down the line," was sort of the reality. But what the hell, Archie? In the old days, everyone at newspapers moved around a lot. Who says you have to grow grey there?

The main thing is: reporting is a craft, writing is a craft; the more you do it, the better you get. There is nothing like a daily newspaper to give you that experience. Don't think about the future; just report and write, and you'll learn tons.

But what do I know?

Anybody else????





Tell The Truth [Member] said:

If the questions are truly quotes from the young journalist, he's already got a hefty start on his due diligence:

He knows Dennis is a goof.

He knows the paper is a shadow of its former self. By the way, in some respects, like a balanced editorial page and the absence of Loeb-like Pulliam political rants, that's not all bad.

I got out of newspapers at the outset of our child-rearing years. 70-hours-a week just isn't conducive to raising a family.

If writing is the lad's lifetime goal, there are multiple ways to accomplish that. Experience at a capital-city daily cannot hurt.

Eyes wide open, pal.

As for Indy, you can do worse. We don't have oceans, or mountains, but we've got a healthy dose of civic pride. Hell, we have a goof for a mayor and we're still doing pretty good, all things considered. Our governor rides a Harley. And we still have neighborhoods that care.

Just be sure to tell your kids: the "family values" practiced here aren't always family-friendly. And we're not exactly diverse, in the Chicago or San Francisco style of divers.e But we're gaining on that score. Eyes wide open, and you'll be fine.

2010-09-28 21:03:22

Matt Stone [unverified] said:

My two cents: I consider myself a "recovering" journalist. I've been writing since I was very young, and I've been writing as a journalist since I joined Y-Press at about age 15 or 16.

If this is a young man in his early 20s (I can relate!), he seems to have a good grip on reality.

But I think he'll see a lot of people who might refer to themselves as "Former journalist/reporter/photographer of The Indianapolis Star". Even outside of the blogosphere, I meet them quite often. The photographer I met at an IUPUI event was one. Francesca Jarosz, the former Star reporter who covered local politics, is now at the IBJ.

Now, I love Indy as a city, despite the politicians. I think it's a great place to raise a family. But, have a backup plan as far as a profession goes. You can always do journalism on the side.

2010-09-28 21:30:04

Rose [unverified] said:

Please, have a plan for how to make a living other than journalism. Develop job skills in something other than journalism, and try for an internship in something that has a future, especially if you want to start a family. You want to try to be in a growing field, if possible, rather than being in a dying industry. In some ways, the newspaper industry is not so different than the auto industry - lots of layoffs, and you need to plan to reinvent yourself if you do get laid off.

Indianapolis, though, is a lovely city. Relatively low housing costs, so it's realistic that you might be able to buy a house. Also, it's realistic that you might be able to afford a place to live that's not an insane commute from work, nothing like what you might have in a much larger city. It can be a pretty nice quality of life here.

2010-09-28 23:37:00

Roberta X [unverified] said:

Writers write -- might as well be paid for it, even if the wages are lousy. (How many wealthy writers are there? Especially print journalists?). He could do worse than Indy and the Star, bad as it is, is no worse than most newspapers these days. (Dennis Ryerson is a bit above par, IMO. Mind you, I despise most of his opinions, but he's not a bad person)

Anyone getting into the news biz should be ready to shift gears.

Big change is coming to the ink-and-pulp news providers. They are either going to adapt or go under within the next decade. Their shiny kid brothers on the TV screen are not far behind, either.

TV/Radio/Newspapers have always relied on a steady influx of starry-eyed youngsters, happy to shovel elephant poo just as long as they're in "show biz." Some end up under the big top; others end up under the bus. Roll the dice!

2010-09-29 06:32:02

hendy [Member] said:

Bad attitude: might as well get paid for it. There's discipline and planning, and self-worth. NOT.

Some of us make well over $100K/yr. as writers and journalists and love it. You can be a wage slave in this world, or a capitalist and get return for your investments. But this random "might as well get paid for it" is demeaning and plainly inept. It's a shameful attitude.

Writing may be an art, but its commercial applications today are wide and wondrous. The original question posed, were I to answer it (having not worked for The Star and only have seen its results) is: run! Run! RUN!!

2010-09-29 08:57:52

Pat Pickett [unverified] said:

Just as I started to respond to this, I looked out my window and my neighbor was breezing down the street on his "mobility scooter" ... pleased as can be and waving like he's in a parade. In the end, regardless of if we win a Pulitzer or spend our careers writing obits, as humans we need to do whatever we need to to maintain that sort of spirit. Follow your heart, try not to think about your checkbook, and don't worry so much about the future that you ignore today. Live a healthy lifestyle (not like so many of the "great ones" we've lost along the way who SHOULD be lending this sort of advice.) If we're lucky, when it's all said and done, we're "scootin down the street" happy with what we've accomplished. Good luck!

2010-09-29 09:44:41

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Pat for Spiritual President. Hoo-ray!

2010-09-29 10:12:33

Christopher Lloyd [unverified] said:

As journalism internships go, the Pulliam Fellowships are about as good as it gets. It actually pays (many do not) and pretty darn well. More importantly, the interns are expected to go out and do actual reporting/shooting/editing.

I remember a friend of mine was over the moon when he landed an internship at my hometown paper, the Orlando Sentinel. He says he spent the whole summer fetching coffee and shuffling papers.

Even if you don't end up liking the Star or Indy, it's only 12 weeks. The experience will give you a real leg up, and great clips.

2010-09-29 10:57:55

hendy [Member] said:

I know three individuals that went on from Pulliam scholarships or other apprenticeships at the old Star and News. All three turned out well.

That said, the quality of the organization has slid to bare-minimum lows. Add to that thought the fact that a picture of a fish doesn't satisfy hunger.

The difference between apprenticeship and journeyman skill is a fine, yet arbitrary line. Sure you should eat well. "Following your heart" means being satisfied that your work is meaningful. Those are basics, if oft ignored. What's important is to define the goals, and relentlessly pursue them. Re-evaluate periodically, but not frequently. Then just DO IT.

Work has value. Value has worth. Worth comes in monetary reward, professional recognition, and self-satisfaction. These three components of worth are mercurial, and rarely are in balance. You can be a bright light among dullards, but it's far tougher and much more fun to be a beacon among beacons.

Ex: I can beat any high schooler at chess. Yet my brother-in-law can beat me about 95% of the time. I suspect the other 5% are when he's bored. Do you know who I want to play? Every time I have a chess game with my brother-in-law, I learn something new. Every time I work for a new editor, I learn something new-- on top of what my research teaches me. Double bonus. And then I get paid.... and rightly so.

2010-09-29 11:46:49

CrossedWires [unverified] said:

I woud like to point out that a fellow classmate and "local boy who made good" Ryan Murphy, (Nip/Tuck, Glee, Love Pray Eat),started his writing and directing career working for newspapers.....

2010-09-29 13:15:13

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

How badly do you want to make a living writing? If badly, then do anything to write. The old Catch 22 used to be, still is, "Come back kid when you've got some samples," if you wanted a job in advertising or PR or newspapers. "But how, sir, do I produce those samples if nobody will give me a chance?"
There's money to be made in business by people who can write. It is downright dumbfounding how many otherwise smart business blokes cannot write a coherent business plan, much less a memo.
So, go to work for a sadly shrunken newspaper; it may still be your best chance to break into the game, be the game journalism or PR or marketing. You'll learn some skills that can take you beyond Gannett's reach. You will learn about deadlines. Newspapering in my family led to pretty good gigs in government, advertising and PR.

And Indianapolis is an OK place to live. My clan returned to live there 3 times, after trying out other places big and small.

Just don't put in any cement backboards.

2010-09-29 15:03:16

hendy [Member] said:

.... work for a sadly shrunken newspaper

Yeah, that's setting the bar high.OTOH, there are a lot of veterans that read this site that wish there could be an improvement. Go improve it. Can't get too much worse. Oh, wait....

2010-09-30 10:03:59

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

I would advise the young cub to go for it. I can never adequately express my gratitude to the universe for the experiences I found as a reporter, the opportunity to indulge my personal dream of being a writer, the weird and wonderful people I knew in the newsroom. The world of journalism this kid will inherit will be so much different in its methods of sourcing and delivery of information and narrative, I wish I could be part of it.

2010-09-30 10:09:16

Ed [unverified] said:

Do the fellowship then get out fast and get into PR or marketing.

PR writing is a specialty all its own, and far more marketable.

2010-09-30 10:44:01

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Damn Ruthie, this may be the smartest blog in town.

2010-09-30 11:29:58

ruthholl [Member] said:

I agree -- great info here. I did not know Ryan Murphy started out as a newsroom hack. I know his dad worked at the Star, in advertising (or some related field) and his mom is a talented PR person.
Learn something new every day.

2010-10-01 12:21:44

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