How to win the Big Reward

 

This past year I mentored an up-and-coming young writer. He did well and now he’s looking for a consistent paying gig, maybe in the newspaper field where I used to work. So I’ve been watching the job ads along with him.

It’s rare to find inspiration in a job ad, even to find motivation to press forward toward a good goal, but that’s exactly what happened yesterday while perusing the openings at journalismjobs.com.

Below is a section of the job ad that inspired me. Read it carefully, and notice how it shows a larger attitude that leads toward excellence.

The text isn’t simply a job ad. It’s a carefully-veiled primer on goal setting and fighting your way toward a big prize. I’ll draw three conclusions for us at the end.

The Daily News in Longview, Wash., is hunting for a fearless, dogged general assignment reporter who wants to get dirty in the trenches.

Don’t be fooled by our [small] size—we cover five counties in Southwest Washington, and there’s no shortage of news. We’ve written stories about labor riots, gang shootings, serial killers, drug kingpins, thieving government employees, environment-trashing businessmen and the devastating eruption of Mount St. Helens.

We’re not going to kid you: Times are tough in the newspaper business. We’re smaller than we used to be and we’re loading less newsprint on the press each night.

Yet, at The Daily News, you’ll be part of a staff that believes newspapers exist to serve the public. Our reporters and editors are committed to keeping an eagle’s eye on government and corporations. We believe that small- and medium-sized papers should read like major metros and that long-form journalism should be great literature.

You’ll be part of a sort of SWAT team of reporters who run hard and have a lot of fun. Too many papers have given up. We’re still in the game. And we want to pass these values on to new reporters. We’re looking for reporters with two, three years of daily experience, but we’ll consider recent college graduates or people who have shown talent working at weeklies.

Notice three fighting attitudes that help you reach a big goal:

1.   If you’re an underdog, be feisty.

In the newspaper industry, circulation numbers means everything. The bigger the better. Ambitious young reporters need to start at small papers and work their way up.

Newspapers in tiny towns reach maybe 2,000 people. The paper I worked at, The Reflector of Southwest Washington, had a circulation of 23,000. Reputable mid-size papers such as the Naples Daily News and Chattanooga Times Free Press crack the top largest 100 papers in the country and go out to about 70,000 readers.

Large metro papers such as the Oregonian and the L.A. Times have circulations anywhere from 250,000 to more than a million copies. The nation’s biggest newspaper right now is the Wall Street Journal, with a circulation of about 2.3 million.

And then there’s the Longview Daily News.

Circulation a measly 18,000.

Don’t be fooled by their small size. They might be the Chihuahuas of the newspaper industry, but they’re pulling a sled like an Alaskan malamute.

How many times do we find ourselves in similar positions? Somebody will always be bigger, yet we need to be determined not to let an underdog status hold us back.

2.   When times are tough, don’t give up.

Wow, I love this honesty in the ad. “Times are tough, and we’re smaller than we used to be.”

They’re right. As online news services have shot to prominence in the last decade, the newspaper business has taken a pounding.

But notice the heart.

The determination.

Too many newspapers have given up. We’re still in the game.

They still have the eye of the tiger.

No matter what line of work you’re in, have you given up? Or are you still proud to say you’re in the arena with blood on your lip, standing toe-to-toe with your opponent, slugging it out for all you’re worth?

3.   Be in the game to be excellent and to serve others.

“At The Daily News you’ll be part of a staff that believes newspapers exist to serve the public.”

Sure, they’re a business that needs to make money. Sure, they want to keep their doors open and not go bankrupt. Sure, they want to generate enough capital to feed their families and hopefully put a buck in their pocket at the end of the day.

But they’re doing what they love for a greater purpose: to serve others.

And they want to be excellent at whatever they do.

In any industry, it’s easy just to crank stuff out to get the job done and go home. But notice this line. We believe that … long-form journalism should be great literature.

That’s the right attitude.

Even if you’re at a small paper, determine to write your stories like Hemingway. Adopt that same attitude no matter what industry you’re in.

Are you doing what you do for the right reasons? Are you always striving for excellence, no matter what you do?

How to win Your Pulitzer

So, how do you win a Pulitzer Prize—the Olympic Gold medal for writers?

Pulitzer prizes in journalism, given for excellence in writing and reporting, are usually won by the huge metro dailies, the big newspapers on the block with world-class staff. In the last hundred years or so, the New York Times has won the most of any news organization. The Washington Post is next. The L.A. Times is third.

Then there’s the tiny Longview Daily News.

Underdogs.

 

Fighting for their survival.

 

Giving back to others.

Guess what. They are among the elite ranks of newspapers who’ve won a Pulitzer.

They won it in the category of Local, General, or Sport Reporting. And they won it for their fierce and fearless coverage of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1981.

Mt. St. Helens is right at their doorstep, and some would say they were simply at the right place at the right time.

Maybe.

But I’ll bet the principles of excellence described in this ad were in place long before then.

The highest award.

Anybody can win it.

You and I included, my friend.

Question: What actions and attitudes you taking and adopting to win your Pulitzer—whatever that may be?

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