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Feb 27 / King Kaufman

Advice for young journalists: Don’t sound like this

I visited the sportswriting class of Gary Pomerantz at Stanford University Wednesday. Toward the end of the class, Pomerantz asked me what I would do if I were the students’ age today. In other words, what advice did I have for them?

I rattled off some things that would be familiar to readers of this blog: read and write a lot, make every word count, find and do things that
everyone else isn’t doing, stay current with what’s going on in the media business and so on.

I might have just pointed them to this story on and said, “Don’t let yourself end up like this.”

Inspired by The Museum of Expired Sounds, which the Washington Post called “a Web site dedicated to archiving and preserving the noises emitted by yesterday’s gadgetry,” Kristen Hare of asked her fellow journalists, “What newsroom sounds will vanish next?”

That resulted in the follow-up linked above, a Storify of tweeted answers headlined “Dripping coffee, primal screams and other newsroom sounds that might disappear.”

The answers made up a chorus of newsroom denizens singing the blues. “Newsroom” seems to be defined here only as part of a newspaper. Some examples:

“The sounds of human beings talking on the phone and to each other because they have been laid off.”

“Paychecks landing on desks.”


“The sound of people.”

“The sound of people laughing because they enjoy their job.”

I don’t know. I hear people laughing every day at my job. What I hear from this Storify is a group of people who find themselves trapped, or at least they seem to feel trapped, in a part of the business where the walls are closing in. They talk about layoffs, newsrooms closing, staffs ceasing to exist. It’s like their world is ending.

Try not to hang around too long in a part of the business that time is passing by, that isn’t responding quickly enough to change. That’s my advice. That’s why my advice is to stay current, to not sniff at and dismiss the next gadget or app or social network or whatever innovation seems like a silly toy.

I don’t mean to sound callous. People losing their jobs is a terrible thing. And nothing any of us can do will ever inoculate us from layoffs.

But we can control certain things. So kids, get the skills and experience you need to be a valued worker, and then try to get yourself to places on their way up rather than on the way down. Get yourself to places where you might hear the sound of people laughing because they enjoy their job.