Journalist Helps Season Bright-Eyed Columnist

    It’s a good thing that I don’t really like money. As a
    budding college writer, if I were to pursue any plans of becoming a
    professional journalist, my future would not exactly guarantee a six-figure
    salary and a cushy 401(k).

    As the Internet continues to flourish, offering the average
    person access to information that 20 years ago was available only via magazines
    and daily newspapers, the future of print media is in question.

    Last week I had the great opportunity to have lunch with
    Evan Thomas, the managing editor of Newsweek, and was able to pick his brain on
    the upcoming presidential election, the current state of American politics and,
    most applicable to me, his thoughts and advice to the next generation of
    journalists.

    Speaking to a crowd of a few hundred people the night before
    in Price Center Ballroom, Thomas addressed the issue of declining subscription
    rates for his magazine and the dynamic role that online news outlets have
    played.

    He spoke to the fact that online advertising is much cheaper
    than it is through print media, which has caused Newsweek to see many of its
    traditional sponsors pull the plug. According to a report of the State of the
    News Media, the three biggest newsweeklies — Time, Newsweek and U.S. News &
    World Report — lost a combined one million subscribers over the last 15 years.

    As one of the top men at Newsweek, Thomas seemed a bit
    dejected when discussing the bleak future of print media and the troubles it
    poses for his publication. But as an accomplished journalist, he will not bear
    the burden of journalism’s future — he will be long retired by the time
    technology finally twists the knife into print media.

    So between forkfuls of my spinach salad and mango
    cheesecake, I made a point to ask him what he thought I, as a starry-eyed,
    optimistic college student, should do about any urges to join the journalism
    workforce. Being careful to avoid turning me off to the career, he chuckled
    slightly to himself before giving me some advice that seemed stressed and
    cautious.

    “Find yourself a small newspaper that will allow you to
    write what you are passionate about; make sure it’s something that you really
    care about,” he said.

    That’s it? Here’s one of the most celebrated journalists in
    the entire nation, and he tells me essentially the same thing that my
    kindergarten teacher told me when I told her that I wanted to be a pro baseball
    player: Follow your heart.

    I don’t know if I was expecting him to offer some piece of sage wisdom that
    would show me how to be a successful journalist, but I had hoped that any
    advice from such a prominent writer would contain something a little more
    concrete.

    After the lunch was over, I kept thinking about what he had
    said about the perils of print media as well as his advice to me as a
    journalist, and I realized that the two things are perfectly intertwined.
    Writers of previous generations were never assured lucrative careers, but they
    were safe knowing they held a basic monopoly on news, and that if they worked
    hard enough they could eventually earn a decent living.

    With less job security, aspiring writers are now forced to
    follow Thomas’ seemingly vague, but very crucial, advice and should only
    venture into the field of journalism if it is truly what their hearts tell
    them.

    Taking the chance of major financial gain out of the
    profession will create a pure breed of writers who are writing only because
    they honestly believe that a virtuous and dedicated media is a fundamental
    component of a working democracy.

    If journalists can attain the same standing in society as
    teachers — very noble yet underpaid — a more informed American public will be
    created. My mother has been a public school teacher for almost 30 years now,
    and my father apparently took Thomas’ advice decades before it was ever given,
    dedicating his life to working as a journalist and political activist covering
    grassroots social justice movements.

    Although both are unbelievably smart and capable people, my
    parents chose to follow their hearts and took on careers that directly made the
    world a better place. My parents will be proud of me no matter what I choose to
    do, but I feel a lot better knowing that being a part of a new generation of
    journalists would serve a truly positive role in the world.

    Maybe Thomas was just giving me a cliche answer, and maybe
    he was just blowing me off to hurry on to a more important meeting — or maybe
    his advice actually was sincere.

    Nobody is in a better place to understand the magnitude of
    the threat to print media and journalism than he is, and maybe he just wants to
    make sure that his beloved profession is continued by people whose hearts are
    in the right place.

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