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CSotD: Reality intrudes

Reply All (WPWG) brings up internships, sparking my memories of interns who did more than collate.

I placed two interns in the newsroom, one a high school student and the other a young teacher working on her masters in English. They both dug right in as full-blown reporters, and the high schooler was promptly hired for the summer and then whenever she had a vacation throughout her freshman and sophomore years in college. After junior year, she got an internship with the Boston Globe and we never saw her again.

Our editor offered the teacher a full-time job at the end of her summer, but he was only kidding, since it would have included a substantial cut in pay and benefits.

I had two interns of my own, and I gave them meaningful work which meant they got to do the fun parts of my job, which was a sacrifice, but very educational for all of us, since, at my next job, I had an actual full-time paid assistant and needed to know how to manage and motivate.

It didn’t bother me so much that our college interns weren’t paid, since, as said, they were doing meaningful work that was likely to enhance their skills, but it bothered me a lot that they were paying the university for those three credit hours.

I knew who their supervising professor was, but he never offered me any suggestions or feedback, and, as far as I could tell, his job was to collect their money and file the single page questionnaire I had to fill out at the end of the semester.

Or maybe his intern filed it.

 

Pardon My Planet (KFS) ratchets things up a bit and takes us into the exciting world of Work for Hire, which is where creative people are hired to do creative things that, as this manager says, may burst out and make the company rich.

Or may not, but you get paid the same amount either way.

You hear about people who come up with something fabulous and are upset that they never got credit, much less a cut of the profits, and I have some sympathy for them.

There are times when a generous employer will offer some recognition and perhaps even some compensation. In a few cases, there are not simply promotions but partnerships to be awarded.

But not always. Read your contract before you sign it, if they even offer you one.

It particularly sucks when something goes totally viral or the boss wins a Nobel Prize or something, and the creative person who made it all possible is left sitting there like a schmuck, but I think you need to know when to offer the company a good idea and when to quit and go do your good idea on your own.

Developing a good idea — on your own or in-house — isn’t necessarily easy or cheap.

When I began writing serial stories and selling them to other papers, I cut a deal with my boss that the paper would pay for mailing and promotion — which included tabling at conferences — in return for a one-third cut and I’d split the rest with my artists.

It would have been an expensive gamble on my own, but this approach worked well and we all made money.

However — not being a damned fool — when the paper was sold, I sent a memo to my boss to make sure everybody knew that this was not work for hire.

As the referee says before a fight, “Protect yourself at all times.”

A warning of dubious value when you’re lying on the canvas watching the stars spin over your head.

My advice would be to think of it earlier, like when you’re deciding with whom to step into the ring.

 

The segue to this David Horsey cartoon is a little more tenuous, but it relates to my educational work at newspapers, so bear with me.

Promoting use of newspapers in classrooms required fundraising, which entailed appearing before business groups. My rubber-chicken speech started with a list of who appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show with the Beatles, the point being that, in the Olden Days, we gathered before the electric hearth and watched a lot of things not directed at us in order to see things that were.

The result being that, while we were sitting there waiting for the Beatles or the Dave Clark Five, we were hearing stories from Myron Cohen and learning all the songs from West Side Story.

But once the Internet came along, the kids went to their rooms, listened only to the specific music they wanted and never expanded beyond their own demographic.

Similarly, I’d warn, if they didn’t read the local paper, they’d miss all those stories that they’d have seen on the way to the sports and comics pages. They’d wind up knowing more about another 14-year-old in Japan than they would about the 35-year-old who lived across the street.

Well, who listens to me?

The Atlantic has a depressing story about the death of local journalism which you should probably read, but, basically, “local” is dead.

People talk about “shopping locally,” but there’s little ability to do that anymore. The difference between buying something from Amazon and buying it at Walmart or CVS is whether you’re supporting crappy minimum wage, no-benefit jobs here or there.

Similarly, the skeleton staff remaining at the local paper can barely report on the new stoplight down town. The money the paper makes goes to Wall Street, not to hire people to write in-depth stories about what’s happening to your local industries or what your local government is actually up to, beyond whatever is in the latest re-typed press releases.

Democracy indeed dies in darkness, and when newspapers act as stenographers instead of as journalists, that kid who only knows other 14-year-olds in Japan becomes a 30-something who knows about climate change and Palestine but has no idea why the paper mill is laying off workers, or what the Water District Commission might be able to do about it.

There’s no point in working as an intern if you’ll never get to do the real work of a reporter.

 

Community Comments

#1 JP Trostle
October/18/2021
@ 7:53 am

See, also: This even more depressing piece this week by McKay Coppins on the Murder of Newsprint

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/11/alden-global-capital-killing-americas-newspapers/620171/

#2 Kathleen Donnelly
October/18/2021
@ 12:47 pm

Am I wrong about Realty Intrudes, that there’s an ‘i’ missing? (Asking for a friend.)
But it reminds me of Toy Story, where the realtor selling the Davis family home works for Virtual Realty.

#3 Mike Peterson
October/18/2021
@ 12:49 pm

Having been a real estate reporter for several years, I can assure you there is no connection between the two. (Fixed, thx)

BTW, “Realtor” is a registered trademark of the National Association of Realtors and should always be capitalized. And should be pronounced without the “I” that it does not contain.

#4 Lawrence Roberts
October/18/2021
@ 2:17 pm

Hi Mike. Local reporting need not die but maybe requires an intervention that would be unpalatable in the USA.

If you have the time check out this Radio New Zealand link to info on Local Democracy Reporting. NOTE: have fractured the URL to reduce the risk of bad things happening.

h ttps://www.rnz.co.nz/ldr

Regards

#5 Mike Peterson
October/18/2021
@ 5:07 pm

We have a similar resistance. Hope it catches on!
https://newhampshirebulletin.com/

#6 Mary McNeil
October/18/2021
@ 5:08 pm

…and it should be pronounced “Ree-al-tore” not “relator” !

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