There is enough data on jobs released in this country each month to choke a hippopotamus. It is discussed, debated and analyzed, politicized and probed until it becomes a statistical Tower of Babel.
I don’t pretend to understand it. But I do know this. Job hunting for journalists is treacherous. Openings are so rare these days that they’re passed around the Internet like so many puppy photos.
It doesn’t matter that they usually read something like this:
“An award-winning bi-weekly located in the Midwest is looking for a sports editor to lead a two-person staff. The Global Observer, located in Feed Lot, South Dakota serves roughly 2000 square miles of largely uninhabited territory.
“The winning applicant will direct coverage of sports at our only school in addition to the weekly cow chip throwing contests that pit our many local taverns against each other. Coverage of 4-H Clubs and church potlucks is also required.
“The editor is expected to assign, edit, write, shoot pictures and videos, design the pages and do light janitorial work in the office. It’s the perfect opportunity for you young folks who didn’t get that internship at the Washington Post. Salary is negotiable but it will be helpful if you can hunt and kill your own food.”
OK, that’s an exaggeration. But only slightly.
Here’s an honest-to-God posting from a New Orleans business publication that appeared recently, admonishing “we can smell desperation from a mile away (strangely, it’s reminiscent of bacon). So take the time and write an original cover letter if you want to be considered a candidate.
“… send me your mind-blowing cover letter. If you don’t think it’s mind-blowing, at least make it sincere and original. If it’s lame, I might just post it here so that you are mocked and scorned…”
Sound like someone you’d want to work for? Me neither. Which proves that writing a job posting takes as much care and thought as answering one.
This example is more like it:
“We want to add some talent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative team. Every serious candidate should have a proven track record of conceiving, reporting and writing stellar investigative pieces that provoke change. However, our ideal candidate has also cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once because some fool wanted to screw around with their perfect lede.
“For those unaware of Florida’s reputation, it’s arguably the best news state in the country and not just because of the great public records laws. We have all kinds of corruption, violence and scumbaggery. The 9/11 terrorists trained here. Bush read My Pet Goat here…
“Our new governor once ran a health care company that got hit with a record fine because of rampant Medicare fraud. We have hurricanes, wildfires, tar balls, bedbugs, diseased citrus trees and an entire town overrun by giant roaches (only one of those things is made up). And we have Disney World and beaches, so bring the whole family.”
Then there is this one, courtesy of Kevin Roderick’s LA Observed website, which goes to show you than no matter how well written, it’s a tough sell:
“This position is responsible for management of the online Antarctic Sun newspaper and management of the photo library archive. The Editor will create a budget of story ideas and timelines, conduct interviews, write articles, take photographs, edit, obtain approvals, and publish news and feature content about the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) research and operations.
“You must pass rigorous medical and dental examinations before going to the Antarctic. Antarctica is an extreme, remote environment, and medical facilities are limited. U.S. Antarctic Program facilities are equipped and staffed to provide routine ambulatory care that would be expected in a U.S. clinic, and have the capability to stabilize and manage a range of emergency medical and dental conditions before transporting patients off the continent. However, medical evacuations take a lot of time and effort and place others at risk, even when the weather allows travel. Remote field camps and research vessels pose additional difficulties. Therefore, the physical qualification …process administered seeks to screen out people with conditions that cannot effectively be managed on the Ice or aboard ship.”
No mention of pay but I assume it’s in cold, hard cash.
I’ve had it both ways in my career. I worked for publications small enough that job listings suggested covering Palmdale was a notch above the Paris beat. I’ve worked for newspapers so big that applicants were told they needed a Pulitzer, a Nobel Peace Prize and a Medal of Honor, awarded simultaneously, just to get in the door.
One of the most infamous job postings is from a literary journal is Britain warning that “Any of the following will be grounds for immediate dismissal during the probationary period: coming in late or leaving early without prior permission; being unavailable at night or on the weekends; failing to meet any goals; giving unsolicited advice about how to run things; taking personal phone calls during work hours; gossiping; misusing company property, including surfing the Internet while at work; submission of poorly written materials; creating an atmosphere of complaint or argument; failing to respond to emails in a timely way; not showing an interest in other aspects of publishing beyond editorial; making repeated mistakes; violating company policies. DO NOT APPLY if you have a work history containing any of the above.”
At least they were honest.
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. He can be reached at Nulede@Aol.Com.