Saturday, February 2, 2013

Aspiring Journalist Must Learn To Ignore Discouragement

Dear Tazi:

I am a junior in high school and have worked on my school paper since middle school. I love journalism, and my goal in life is to be a professional journalist someday. My classmates all want to work for papers like the New YorkTimes or the Washington Post, but my dreams are a little less…I guess the word is “dry”. My dream is to have a byline with the New York Post.

I love The Post’s over the top style and ability to present the news as it is, with its no holds barred headlines, human interest stories, and awesome celebrity news and photos I think it is one of the more interesting newspapers out there, and I want to be a part of making it all happen!

In the past, my journalism teachers have all been supportive of my dream, but this year’s teacher is not. “Miss Jones” has told me that she only teaches serious journalism students and that the time has long passed for me to give up my “childish dream of working for a tabloid”. I do not consider The Post to be a tabloid newspaper simply because it does not conform to the stuffy image of other newspapers.

I feel like Miss Jones is not being fair to me and am upset that she keeps telling me to set my sights in a “more serious direction”. I feel like she is refusing to take me seriously as a student because my dream doesn't come into focus on her radar. I have tried talking with my academic counselor about the unfair treatment, but it got me nowhere. The counselor told me not to put all of my eggs in one basket, that there are a lot of opportunities out there that I am ignoring by focusing solely on one paper. Tazi, do you think this is true? Should I give up on my dream of one day writing for the New York Post? Or should I follow my heart and accept whatever consequences come my way.


Dear Cub:

My lifelong dream is to one day be famous enough to make it onto Page Six of the New York Post. In my case, the fact that I am far too shy to ever leave my yard and travel to New York makes my dream much less realistic than yours.

Every successful newspaper fills a niche, and while the NewYork Post is not in the same class as the New York Times, it is hardly the WeeklyWorld News. The Post brings people the news in a less pretentious, easy to read manner, and sprinkles it with a style that makes people feel good about themselves for reading the news. I think your goal to be a part of this is quite admirable!

My advice to you is not to give up on your dream, but to steadily work towards that dream. Try starting by writing for your local paper – print or online. Papers from your community newsletter to Patch are always looking for people who are willing to write in return for experience and additions to their portfolio – something like an internship, except without the professional guidance. I also suggest that you speak with your career counselor about internship opportunities. Many of these positions are unpaid, but some offer a stipend and all offer the opportunity to learn from the pros while you work on improving your professional skills.

The New York Post is a very large paper centered in the largest news market in the world; to hope to start your professional career with them would require starting at the very bottom – several steps below where you might start with other, smaller papers and possibly outside the departmental range of where you would like to work. Rather than make your dream job your starting point and set yourself up for disappointment, why not make it a second or even third step in your career? By doing this you will have already proved yourself worthy of the job by climbing your career ladder rung by rung instead of reaching several levels above your current skills. Experience is a wonderful teacher!

Speaking of teachers, I suggest that you ignore your teacher’s criticism. She may mean well, but she cannot predict what future successes or failures await you. Twenty years ago, my Mommie failed Chemistry. Her teacher passed her with a “D” because he felt badly for her and figured she would never be taking another Chemistry class again; she now tutors the subject professionally and works as a Chemistry Laboratory Teaching Assistant.

I wish you much luck, and hope to one day see your byline in the New York Post! Let me know when it happens!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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