The Daily Journal has experienced 100 percent staff turnover, at least on the editorial side of the house, since Sept. 20.
Two full-time reporters left, then a part-time reporter. Civitas Media, the parent company, brought in a new editor/content manager (yours truly) and I was tasked with filling two full-time spots and a part-time position as well.
What a ride it’s been.
The quality of application materials I’ve received from candidates in the past five weeks have run the spectrum from great (one) and good (several) to mediocre (a bunch) and poor (a few). Then there are some that simply defy expectations and some that, despite my working with words for a living, have left me speechless.
A bit of career advice: Handwritten resumes are unacceptable. So, too, are folded, ripped or torn resumes. Spell names correctly; at least your own name. If you refer to the name of a particular newspaper in your cover letter, be sure to spell that name correctly, too.
If you make it past the screening process and are called for an interview, it’s probably a good idea to not bring your child to the interview. Though kid-friendly, we’re not a daycare center and the interview is a candidate’s chance to offer a first impression.
That notwithstanding, there are, for reporting roles here, two types of tests offered during the interview process. First is a rather simple typing test. Computers are a way of life in any newsroom these days; if you have more errors than words typed per minute, this might not be the place for you.
Another piece of career advice — take it or leave it as you will: if you are applying for the position of reporter, which is a job that requires an awful lot of writing, try not to mention that you don’t like writing. Could be a downer and just might give the interviewer a negative impression of the candidate.
The Daily Journal will be, for most reporters, a stepping stone to high-paying jobs in newspapers across the country. Mary Katherine Ham used this very newspaper as a brief step in her career which now includes paid contributions to Fox News.
Other reporters might bounce around from small paper to small paper, thinking the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Either approach is fine, really. When I’m looking to hire a reporter, I’m hopeful to get between 18 and 24 months of work; each day and week full of what I refer to “honest hours” — in other words, their best. If that happens, the reporter, I feel, will be ready to contribute in a larger way, to a larger audience, after paying their dues here.
Some candidates, of course, have previous work that put themselves in a position to sometimes merit special consideration. Military veterans are among them. As a fellow veteran, I have a soft spot for veterans seeking work. But one recent candidate for a reporting job here told me that he wanted to be offered a job because he was a veteran. That’s it; forget the actual skillset needed to perform the job adequately.
That kind of policy wouldn’t work here at The Daily Journal or any other newspaper. Veterans often have traits that, otherwise qualified, separate themselves from a pack of candidates. But reaching for a handout isn’t one of them.