I’m an aspiring journalist. That’s what I want to do with my life. However, I’m not sure where to start. Could you help me? — raetschi
May we direct you to our QA Tag where you’ll find FJP deep thinking on subjects such as:
I hope these links help.
One item perhaps not mentioned in the above though is this: Ask every journalist you know (and even those you don’t) how you can break in, who you might be able to talk to and if, of course, they know of any openings you might be able to pursue.
Have other questions? Ask away. — Michael
TOR was compromised and some other items on that list are just plain and simple idiotic and impossible to the common user - information like this to people on a site where they take it to heart really quickly isn’t the best idea… — Anonymous
As this message from our inbox notes, earlier this year a compromise was discovered in the Tor browser.
This is true. But once the vulnerability was discovered an update came out that resolved it.
"We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time” but “with manual analysis we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users.”
Of course, no system or defense mechanism is foolproof and that should always be remembered. If you really need absolute privacy, leave your tracking device (read: phone) at home and go for a walk in a very loud place with whoever you need to communicate with.
But don’t succumb to privacy nihilism. As Bruce Schneier writes in The Guardian, “The NSA has turned the fabric of the internet into a vast surveillance platform, but they are not magical. They’re limited by the same economic realities as the rest of us, and our best defense is to make surveillance of us as expensive as possible.”
One way to do that is to encrypt and anonymize, and help your friends and networks do the same.
For more information about defensive technology and steps you can take to secure your communications, visit this primer from the EFF. It covers browser, email, chat, phones and secure deletion of your files.
Main thing is to publish. Blog, tweet, write, photograph, tweet, video, code, play around with data - or a combination of all of the above. a) it will keep your journalistic ‘muscle’ in practice. b) if you’re any good, you’ll get noticed. And bear in mind you can do these things at other places than conventional news organisations. Many businesses, NGOs, arts organisations, public bodies, universities, etc are now publishers of extremely high quality stuff. Good places to practise your craft before moving on…
Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian’s Editor-in-Chief, in response to a Redditor’s question: What advice would you have for a journalism student attempting to get into the industry at the moment?
He did an IAmA on Reddit yesterday, mainly about the Guardian’s coverage of the NSA files. It’s an interesting conversation in which he links out to some good reads such as these tips on communicating securely with your sources.
There is a chasm of difference between skepticism and speculation. Michael Hastings, the 33-year-old journalist who died in a car crash in Los Angeles this week, knew the difference well. Hastings didn’t speculate; he devoted years of his too-short life to a different project entirely — investigation propelled by fierce skepticism.
There is some sad irony, then, that the journalist’s tragic death has been followed by a storm of wild speculation — conspiracy theories about car bombs and government assassinations abound through cyberspace. It is the sort of knee-jerk speculation — concerns expounded based on threadbare evidence and assumptions — that sits quite at odds with Hastings’ legacy of thorough reporting and serious probing.
Natasha Lennard, Stop Speculating About Hastings’ Death, Salon.
The News, via Mother Jones:
Michael Hastings, a respected young journalist forRolling Stone andBuzzFeed, was killed in a car accident in Los Angeles Tuesday, according to his boss, BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith.
Hastings, who was 33, was perhaps most famous for “The Runaway General,” his June 2010Rolling Stone article on General Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of US forces in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama fired McChrystal after the publication of the article. Hastings expanded “The Runaway General” into a book, The Operators, that was published in January 2012 and became a New York Times bestseller.
Hastings first rose to prominence for his coverage of the Iraq war inNewsweek. His then-fiancée Andrea Parhamovich was killed in Iraq in 2007; he later wrote a book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad, about his years in Iraq.
You can find Hastings’Rolling Stonearchives hereand his BuzzFeedstuff here, but hisNewsweek writing is mostly not available online.Rolling Stone's obituary for him is here; Smith’s, which is a particularly gutting read, is here.
Also—and this is wonderful—Hastings’ advice to young journalists by way of Reddit:
1) You basically have to be willing to devote your life to journalism if you want to break in. Treat it like it’s medical school or law school.
2) When interviewing for a job, tell the editor how you love to report. How your passion is gathering information. Do not mention how you want to be a writer, use the word “prose,” or that deep down you have a sinking suspicion you are the next Norman Mailer.
3) Be prepared to do a lot of things for free. This sucks, and it’s unfair, and it gives rich kids an edge. But it’s also the reality.
4) When writing for a mass audience, put a fact in every sentence.
5)Also, keep the stories simple and to the point, at least at first.
6) You should have a blog and be following journalists you like on Twitter.
7) If there’s a publication you want to work for or write for, cold call the editors and/or email them. This can work.
8) By the second sentence of a pitch, the entirety of the story should be explained. (In other words, if you can’t come up with a rough headline for your story idea, it’s going to be a challenge to get it published.)
9) Mainly you really have to love writing and reporting. Like it’s more important to you than anything else in your life—family, friends, social life, whatever.
10) Learn to embrace rejection as part of the gig. Keep writing/pitching/reading.
FJP: RIP Michael Hastings.
Why, yes we do. And the application deadline is quickly approaching. Details here. Apply by May 10.
I’m graduating in May in hopes of becoming a journalist. I’ve had internships and I’ve worked for my university’s online news source. Can you steer a terrified senior in a direction? Where should I look? What should I be looking for? What should I work on?” — Helena
We get questions like this fairly frequently and there’s no exact answer. But with yesterday’s announcement of the 2012 Peabody Award winners we’re seeing the incredible range of today’s journalism.This isn’t to say that you can’t quibble with this story winning over that story, or say they could chose more innovative work, but it is to say that if you look at the winners from the Web, radio, television and documentary you see a wild diversity of storytelling approaches and ideas.
And reviewing some of the winners, I think, is a great place to start.
Start with the Web and The New York Times win for “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” a multimedia feature using aerial photography, video and words while taking advantage of contemporary presentation techniques such as responsive design and parallax in order to augment and further drive the story forward.
SCOTUSBlog is the other Web winner. There are no bells and whistles. Instead, it’s pretty much a text only blog that’s become a go to resource for stories, background and explainers on all things that have to do with the US Supreme Court. Here, deep, thorough, consistent reporting and analysis wins out.
Radio, I think, is in a golden age and the reason I think this is is because of the launch of iTunes back in 2001. This allowed people to easily subscribe to podcasts — and by extension radio programming — that we previously didn’t have access to. Yes, RSS already existed but iTunes gave us an easy interface to either hear or distribute programming. While your local public radio station might not carry it, you can now hear everything from the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent to The Moth Radio Hour, 99% Invisible and Radiolab among a host of other exceptional programming.
Each of these programs uses different techniques and styles. By listening and analyzing, we learn new tricks that expand our understanding of what’s possible in audio storytelling.
One of this year’s radio winners comes from Radio Diaries, is called “Teen Contender" and follows the 16-year-old Olympic boxer Claressa Shields in a first person narrative from Flint, Michigan to London. Here’s a great breakdown by Julia Barton on the techniques used and how this created great radio.
Other radio winners include WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show, a “traditional” hosted show about New York’s political and cultural life; This American Life’s “What Happened at Dos Erres,” an incredible radio documentary about a Guatemalan immigrant in Boston “who learns that the man he believed to be his father actually led the massacre of his village”; and NPR for its hard news reporting in Syria by Kelly McEvers and Deborah Amos.
I’ll leave it at this and with the recommendation to explore different types of journalism awards across magazines, multimedia, photography, documentary, radio and the rest. Through it, you’ll come across work that brings about an “Aha!” moment, one that makes you say, “This is what I want to do.” And then start positioning yourself and aiming towards doing it by applying for work — or learning the skills needed to apply for work — in that area.
Hope this helps. — Michael
Have a question? Ask away.
This morning, I read Michael Wolff’s piece in USA Today entitled Columbia Flunks Relevancy Test. He’s not a fan of the school for reasons I can actually understand (though they might have been more convincing if he’d kept the sweeping generalizations to a minimum).
The overriding circumstance which the J-school seems to regard as not its concern is that the news business, which it counts on to employ its graduates — newspapers, magazines, television news, even online news — is shrinking at historic rates… Columbia, raking in $58,008 in yearly tuition and fees from each student and then sending them into a world of ever-bleaker prospects, ought, more reasonably and honestly, to just shut its doors.
I’m currently an MS student at Columbia. Wolff is right. It’s expensive. He’s also right about the fact that my peers and I probably won’t be making heaps of money down the road.
Like most other students—who, believe it or not, are a pretty wise, critically thinking lot of folks—I deeply considered whether or not it was a financial burden I wanted to take on. In seeking advice on the matter, in fact, I was encouraged not to go to j-school for reasons very similar to Wolff’s: it’s a waste of money, and if I want to be a journalist, I should just get out there and do journalism. But I went anyway. Here is why.
I want to be in an industry that continuously and honestly reflects on itself. I was first drawn to Columbia because of the Columbia Journalism Review. It’s a brilliant and necessary publication—not the only brilliant and necessary publication—but one that has empowered my curiosity for both the past and future of journalism with access to the people who think about it well. I hoped this type of thinking would be present in classes at Columbia. It is.
I want to be friends with and collaborate with intelligent, hard-working people who love both creating and consuming journalism. There is no better way to form life-long connections with such a group of people than by spending months working yourself to the bone in their company. At Columbia, I have had the honor of doing this.
I want to have the skills to be able to create any sort of journalistic project I want, both because I understand the industry is in a time of incredible transition, and these skills will be an asset, and because with the appropriate tools, great journalism can reach more people than ever before. I’m halfway through my degree and I have learned to code, curate, aggregate, report, write, shoot and produce audio, video and photography from employed journalists whom I respect and appreciate very much for the warmth and thoroughness with which they have shared their knowledge and experiences. They’ve brought their friends and colleagues to class too, who have offered their time and expertise entirely for free.
I want to be part of a community to which I can remain connected. To which I want to remain connected. I have been offered mentorship and guidance from J-school alumni who graduated 1 year before my time and 30 years before my time, and they have been nothing but kind and helpful. I cannot wait to pay it forward.
Columbia’s faculty, staff, and resources are great. But truly, it is the students and alumni of a university that make it great. It’s hard for me keep myself inspired without a community. And to do my best work, I’d like to nourish my inspiration. In a city where most of us are willing to get into debt for many kinds of instant gratification, a meaningful community is something I am willing to pay for, to have the opportunity to sustain.
So thank you, Michael Wolff, for making me consider once again, why I’m paying for J-school at Columbia. I didn’t become a journalist to make a lot of money. I became a journalist to become a better human being. Someone more critical, more patient, better at listening, better at asking questions, better at representing others on paper and in film. I’m absolutely certain I will be able to support myself and my family (in more ways than one) with these skills. While I have tremendous respect for those who are willing and able to freelance their way to the top, that’s not the struggle I chose. I chose to join a legacy institution that is finding its way in a transitioning world, and that struggle is something I’m enjoying very much. —Jihii
From the Inbox: I’ve always been curious, is it possible to find work as a journalist without a degree? — Anonymous
I’d like to think it shouldn’t matter. Unlike being a doctor or a lawyer, there aren’t license or degree requirements for practicing journalism.
It might be harder to initially get your foot in the door but if you have the skills and the portfolio, people will (or should) look at that before checking out where or where you didn’t go to school.
Here’s what Joe Grimm once wrote at Poynter:
Some great journalists working today do not have college degrees. Few of the people working around them give it much thought or even know their degree status. It is all about “what have you done lately?”
Magda Abu-Fadil, a foreign correspondent and director of the Journalism Training Program at the American University of Beirut, doesn’t believe a journalism degree should be required but notes the realities of the job market in this interview with the International Journalists’ Network.
I don’t know if it’s worth all the money spent going to journalism school today since the landscape is changing so fast and we’re in a race against time with all the new technology, but it’s definitely worth investing in a degree since most employers still require it.
These challenges do not erase the simple fact that most journalism jobs are off-limits to all applicants who have not completed at least one internship. No internships = no job. It really is that simple. Many students, it seems, refuse to believe this applies to them. These are usually the students who are obsessed with getting high grades — as if anyone in a newsroom would ever care what grade you got in any class! (No one but a graduate school cares what your grades were.)
Hope this helps, and good luck. — Michael
Have a question? Ask away.